EditorsNote: adds Penn State record
Defensive back Jordan Howden made a sliding interception in the end zone with 61 seconds remaining as the No. 17 Minnesota Golden Gophers knocked No. 4 Penn State from the ranks of the undefeated on Saturday, upsetting the Nittany Lions 31-26 in Minneapolis.
The walk-on’s interception to end the Nittany Lions’ late rally moved Minnesota to 9-0 (6-0 Big Ten West) for the first time since 1904.
Tanner Morgan completed 18 of 20 for 339 yards and three touchdowns against the No. 2 scoring defense in the nation. Wide receivers Rashod Bateman (7 catches, 203 yards, TD) and Tyler Johnson (7-104, TD) contributed big games.
Sean Clifford was 23 of 43 for 340 yards and a score but had three interceptions, and Journey Brown collected 124 yards on 14 carries with two touchdowns. Receivers K.J. Hamler (7-119) and Pat Freiermuth (7-101) led Penn State (9-1, 5-1 Big Ten East).
Playing their biggest game in over half a century in front of an energetic TCF Bank Stadium crowd clad in maroon — the first sellout since 2015 — the Golden Gophers outscored Penn State 14-10 in a busy first quarter.
Minnesota capitalized after Antoine Winfield Jr.’s interception when Morgan found Bateman on a 66-yard score on a blitz to complete the longest play against PSU this season.
Brown broke out through the Minnesota defense and dashed 45 yards for a score at 10:51, but the home side regained the touchdown lead with a 21-yard screen pass to Chris Autman-Bell at 4:29.
Jake Pinegar’s 33-yard field late in the quarter cut the Minnesota lead to 14-10.
Winfield grabbed his Big Ten-leading seventh interception to kill a second-quarter Penn State drive, and Minnesota scored again when Morgan lobbed his third TD, a 38-yarder to Tyler Johnson, at the 7:18 mark.
Brock Walker (26 yards) and the Nittany Lions’ Pinegar (21) traded field goals as Minnesota led 24-13 at halftime.
Clifford tossed a 10-yard strike to Nick Bowers at 4:05 of the third, but the Lions’ 2-point conversion attempt failed, with Minnesota leading 24-19.
Morgan drove Minnesota down the field on the next series, setting up first-and-goal with a 36-yard strike to Bateman at the Penn State 4-yard line on the quarter’s final play.
Seth Green plunged in from the 1 two plays later as the Golden Gophers moved the lead to 31-19.
Minnesota made a stand when defensive back Chris Williamson broke up Clifford’s fourth-and-goal pass in the end zone on the next series.
Brown rushed in for his second score at 3:49 to close the gap to 31-26, but Clifford injured his leg after the exchange. He returned for the final series, however, and threw the intercepted pass that sealed the win for the Golden Gophers.
—Field Level Media