On the very first carry for the Penn State Nittany Lions, running back Bill Belton fumbled the football. The turnover led to a 45-yard field goal from senior kicker Chris Hawthorne. From that point, the Minnesota Golden Gophers chewed up the game clock on multiple long touchdown drives to lead 24-10 at halftime.
With sophomore quarterback Philip Nelson under new center Tommy Olson, Minnesota would convert a Penn State punt into a 15 play, 96-yard drive. It was capped off by a one-yard touchdown run by David Cobb.
Fourth down conversions by the Minnesota offense were a key part of two of their three touchdown drives. On a fourth and two from the Penn State 28 yard line, Nelson was able to connect with freshman tight end Maxx Williams for 24 yards to set up Cobb’s goal line score.
In between the first two Gophers touchdowns, Penn State was able to strike quickly to get on the scoreboard for the first time. Behind the legs of running back Zach Zwinak, the Nittany Lions marched 75 yards on six plays in just 2:06 to make it a 10-7 ball game.
On the ensuing drive, Nelson would lead the Gophers down the field once again. The 13 play, 70-yard drive for Minnesota would last 6:54 and would need another B1G fourth down conversion for the Maroon and Gold to make it into the end zone. Nelson would hit freshman receiver Donovahn Jones on a fourth and eight from the Penn State 29 for an 11 yard strike.
The conversion would get Minnesota into the red zone and eventually lead to Nelson calling his own number and running for a six-yard touchdown. Even with a strong wind at TCF Bank Stadium, Hawthorne was able to connect on his early field goal and all three extra-point attempts.
The Nittany Lions would add a field goal of their own late in the first half from kicker Sam Ficken from 27 yards out to make it a 17-10 game.
On the final offensive drive of the half, the Gophers were against the clock, but great clock management and play calling would set up another connection from Nelson to Williams for a big play. The 24-yard touchdown pass with just 0:17 remaining in the first half, would send the Golden Gophers into the locker room leading 24-10.
With a two possession lead at the break, Minnesota is in prime position to win their fourth straight Big Ten Conference game in the same season since 1973.