Joe Christensen covered Major League Baseball for 15 years, including three seasons at the Baltimore Sun and eight at the Star Tribune, before switching to the college football beat. He’s a Faribault, Minn., native who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1996. He covered Jim Wacker’s Gophers for the Minnesota Daily and also wrote about USC, UCLA and the Rose Bowl for the Riverside Press-Enterprise before getting this chance to cover football again.
Email Joe to talk about the Gophers.
Penn State fumbled on its first snap, and the Gophers turned two key fourth-down conversions into touchdowns, helping Minnesota take a 24-10 lead into halftime today at TCF Bank Stadium.
Penn State’s fumble came on a bad exchange from quarterback Christian Hackenberg to running back Bill Belton.
Cornerback Eric Murray pounded on the ball at Penn State’s 29-yard line, and the Gophers quickly turned that into a 45-yard field goal by Chris Hawthorne.
The Gophers made it 10-0 late in the first quarter with a 15-play, 96-yard touchdown drive that took 8:10 off the clock. The key play was a 24-yard pass from Philip Nelson to Maxx Williams on fourth-and-2 from Penn State’s 28-yard line.
Penn State seemed to be on its heels, but the Nittany Lions came right back with a quick, 75-yard touchdown drive. Zach Zwinak took over for Belton at running back and the Gophers didn’t have an answer. He had a 38-yard gain and scored on a six-yard run.
The Gophers came right back with another touchdown drive, stretching the lead to 17-7. Once again, Minnesota converted a key fourth down, when Nelson hit Donovahn Jones for an 11-yard gain on fourth-and 9 from Penn State’s 30-yard line.
Entering the game, Penn State opponents were 0-for-6 converting fourth-down chances, and the Gophers were 8-for-11. Minnesota's success continued. Nelson capped that drive with a six-yard touchdown scramble.
Penn State had another long drive toward the end of the half, but the Gophers forced the Nittany Lions to settle for a 27-yard field goal by Sam Ficken.
Nelson hit a wide open Williams in the corner for a 24-yard touchdown pass with 17 seconds remaining in the first half.
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