Gophers Win 4th Big Ten Game In A Row, Top Penn State 24-10
MINNEAPOLIS -- David Cobb carried 27 times for 139 yards and a touchdown, and Minnesota held Penn State scoreless over the final 33-plus minutes to grind out a 24-10 victory on Saturday, the fourth in a row for the Golden Gophers.
Philip Nelson had 186 yards and a score on 15-for-24 passing, plus one touchdown and 40 yards on the ground for Minnesota (8-2, 4-2), which has won four straight Big Ten games in the same season for the first time since 1973.
The Gophers haven't had this many victories since going 10-3 in 2003.
Zach Zwinak scored once and gained a season-high 150 yards on 26 rushes for the Nittany Lions (5-4, 2-3).
Allen Robinson had seven receptions for 63 yards, giving him 1,106 yards this year to break Bobby Engram's 18-year-old program record, but the Gophers minimized his impact.
Minnesota had touchdown drives of 96, 70 and 74 yards in the first half. On third-and-10, Nelson found a wide-open Maxx Williams for a 24-yard score with 17 seconds left before the break to give the Gophers a two-touchdown lead.
The Gophers converted all three fourth downs and are 11 for 14 this season.
The Nittany Lions moved the chains only once on nine third downs and once on three fourth downs.
Since head coach Jerry Kill took a leave of absence from the job to treat his epilepsy, the Gophers haven't lost. He has gradually reassumed his responsibilities and watched the past four games from the coaches' box above the field. The Minnesota students chanted "Jerry! Jerry! Jerry!" as the final seconds of the game ticked down, and the Gophers players sprinted across the field to repossess the Governor's Victory Bell trophy for the first time since 2004. Penn State won the previous four meetings.
Christian Hackenberg, the conference's leader in yards passing coming into the weekend, went 14 for 25 for 163 yards.
Bill Belton, who last week became the first Penn State player with 200 yards or more in a game since Larry Johnson in 2002, fumbled on the first snap of the game before he was touched. The Gophers recovered at the 29 and kicked a field goal for a quick lead.
Belton was in on the next series, but Zwinak took over after that. The 240-pound junior pushed his way through the line time after time, often twisting past the initial contract for a few extra yards. Even trailing by two touchdowns for the entire second half, the Nittany Lions kept sending Zwinak at a Gophers defense that has been vulnerable to powerful running backs, as evidenced by the success Iowa's Mark Weisman had over the last two years against them.
The problem for Penn State was the combination of tight pass coverage Minnesota played all afternoon and the inaccuracy of freshman Hackenberg throwing the ball under pressure. The Nittany Lions drove from their 12-yard line to the Minnesota 16 midway through the fourth quarter, but Hackenberg had four straight incompletions to give the ball back. Only one of those throws went toward Robinson and the last toss was almost intercepted by Derrick Wells.
Then after forcing Peter Mortell's fourth punt of the second half, Penn State raced back into the red zone for yet another opportunity to turn this into a one-score game. But Hackenberg fumbled the snap on second-and-goal at the 2, and James Manuel recovered with 6:40 left.
Cobb had his fourth straight 100-yard rushing game, a first for the Gophers since Amir Pinnix in 2007.
Even Mortell had a productive afternoon, averaging 46 yards on his four kicks. One was downed at the 2-yard line and another at the 1.
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