Penn State has reason to celebrate after emotional win vs Minnesota
After Penn State fans sat on the edge of their seats all night chewed their fingernails down to nothing, a 25-yard run by Saquon Barkley on the Lions’ first play of overtime sparked a celebration. It was something that was desperately needed in Happy Valley after a less-than-ideal start to this campaign.
A 29-26 win over Minnesota may not be a monumental victory by the historical standards of Penn State, but on this night, in this season, beating the Gophers was significant.
Nothing has gone right for the Nittany Lions in the early portion of the season. There’s been nonstop banter about whether or not it was morally right to honor Joe Paterno at a home football game. They’ve been plagued by a series of injuries and have been stretched thin at linebacker. In the two biggest challenges early in the year, Penn State has face-planted.
Late-game heroics weren’t enough to overcome a 28-7 deficit against in-state rival Pittsburgh. The loss to Michigan was embarrassing, as the Wolverines cruised to a 49-10 win in Ann Arbor. This was the year that James Franklin started putting together a contender in B1G East. It’s safe to say there’s still a lot of work left before that happens.
But this was important for Penn State. It was imperative to get a signature win on the 2016 resume. And despite popular belief, beating Minnesota is a note-worthy accomplishment for this program. Scoring the winning touchdown was a significant feat for Barkley.
This was another night when things weren’t looking good for the Lions. The Gophers went into halftime with a 13-3 lead and had little trouble slowing down the offense. Minnesota tallied 31 first downs in the game and lumber-laying kicker Joey Julius took a cheap shot that cleared both sidelines.
It looked like the wheels of Penn State’s season were about to fly off. Luckily it hung tight with Minnesota.
After a Gopher field goal with :54 left to go ahead 23-20, the Nittany Lions drove the ball 53 yards to set up a game-tying kick for Tyler Davis. After Tracy Claeys took a timeout to attempt to freeze the kicker, Davis knocked home the 40-yarder and sent the game to overtime.
The defense did their part in overtime, forcing Minnesota to settle for a field goal. On the first play of the possession, Barkley found a hole, beat the defenders and high-stepped into the end zone as Beaver Stadium erupted.
And with good reason.
Maybe there will be more to celebrate as the year continues. Sometimes an emotional victory – like the one Penn State just experienced – builds momentum and confidence. That could be the missing link to this team. With tests against Maryland, Ohio State and Michigan State still on deck, we’ll certainly find out.
But for now, the Penn State locker room is clamoring after a big win. The fans have finally been given something to smile about. Franklin has something to build on.
This was a big win for Penn State, even if it wasn’t against a traditional B1G power.