One of the three unbeatens was going to lose in the Big Ten this weekend. It was expected to be Minnesota with No. 5 Penn State coming to town as a touchdown favorite.
But the Golden Gophers pulled another surprise during a surprising season that has the 13th-ranked team in the country at 9-0 with a 31-26 defeat of the Nittany Lions.
It’s just the third time since 1905 the school has had nine wins in a season. And there’s more possible. Victories against against No. 16 Wisconsin and No. 18 Iowa later this month would put Minnesota into the Big Ten championship game and squarely in College Football Playoff contention.
Minnesota jumped out early against a Penn State defense ranked in the top 10 in total defense and scoring defense.
With quarterback Tanner Morgan picking apart the Nittany Lions secondary, the Golden Gophers found the end zone on their first two drives as Morgan hit on scoring passes to Rashod Bateman for 65 yards and Chris Autman-Bell for 21 yards.
A 38-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Johnson in the second quarter helped secure a 24-13 lead at halftime.
After Penn State scored to cut its lead to five, Minnesota responded with an eight-play, 75-yard drive for a touchdown in the fourth quarter that was extended by a 36-yard pass from Morgan to Bateman on third-and-9.
The Golden Gophers stopped the Nittany Lions inside their 5 on the ensuing drive and later had an interception at the goal line after Penn State pulled within 31-26 to clinch the victory.
Morgan finished 18-for-20 for 339 yards and three touchdowns. Bateman had seven catches for 203 yards.