The Gophers have held the ball for at least 10 minutes more than their opponents in each game of this winning streak.
“David Cobb might be our best defensive player, if he keeps running the ball like that,” Gophers defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys said. “Coach (Kill) will tell you all the time, that there’s no better defense than the one standing on the boundary watching the game.”
Penn State backup running back Zach Zwinak carried 26 times for 150 yards, but the Gophers held Hackenberg, the Big Ten’s leading passer, to 163 yards. And by constantly double-teaming Allen Robinson, the nation’s second-leading receiver, Minnesota limited him to seven receptions for 63 yards.
The Gophers won the turnover battle again 2-1, giving them a 8-2 edge over their opponents during the four-game winning streak. Nelson hasn’t fumbled or thrown an interception since Sept. 28.
Minnesota also continued to work its magic on fourth down, going for it three times and turning those into three first downs. Two of those — a 24-yard pass from Nelson to Maxx Williams, and an 11-yard pass from Nelson to Donovahn Jones — led to first-half touchdowns.
With a 17-10 lead and 3:11 left in the second quarter, the Gophers appeared content to run out the clock to end the first half. But Cobb took a screen pass from Nelson and raced 26 yards into Penn State territory. On third-and-10 from Penn State’s 24-yard line, Nelson found a wide-open Williams in the left corner for another touchdown with 17 seconds left.
The second half was a defensive struggle, highlighted by some exceptional punting by Gophers sophomore Peter Mortell. He had punts that pinned Penn State at the 1-, 2- and 12-yard line.
“There’s really nothing else I can do right after I kick it; the credit should go to our coverage team,” Mortell said. “For our long snapper, Jake Filkins, to go down there and down it at the 1-yard line is unbelievable.”