Penn State vs. Minnesota: Halftime Thoughts

By Nick Polak on November 9, 2019 at 1:44 pm
Nov 9, 2019; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Golden Gophers defensive back Antoine Winfield Jr. (11) intercepts a pass intended for Minnesota Golden Gophers wide receiver Tyler Johnson (6) in the first quarter at TCF Bank Stadium.
Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Penn State looked rusty to start this one and trails the Gophers 24-13 at the half. After allowing an average of 5.0 points per first half to this point, they allowed the fired-up Gophers to get into the 20's before the teams got to the locker room. James Franklin and company will need to get their team refocused if they hope to find a second gear in the second half and complete the comeback.

  • This is the first time in 2019 we've seen a really rough start on the road. That had been a staple of the Penn State road game experience in past years, but they had avoided that to this point. Had Clifford led Shorter a bit more to the long side of the field instead of overthrowing down the middle, they may have had another fast start. Instead, the pass was picked, and Minnesota went on to score a few plays later when Garrett Taylor couldn't get over in time to cover a receiver left open thanks to a blitz, and the Gophers took the early lead.
  • Tanner Morgan found success throwing the ball on this Penn State defense. This has been the toughest test the secondary has faced, and they've struggled to respond. They need a wake-up call during halftime.
  • You have to wonder how affected Clifford was by his right hand after he hit it on a helmet. He was uncharacteristically inaccurate after that on several throws. Worth noting that while the second interception was a terrible decision, it was absolutely a missed pass interference call.
  • The Minnesota secondary has been excellent in 2019, and they really showed up today. Antoine Winfield Jr. has two interceptions already, and they've hounded the Lions receivers on several other plays.
  • On the positive side, Journey Brown and the run game finally found some success. We'll see if they stick with it on the road back. However, the designed quarterback runs with Clifford haven't been as effective as they typically are. We may not see as many of those in the second half.
  • Pat Freiermuth has been outstanding once again. He's caught every pass that's been catchable in his direction.
  • Settling for three on the final drive of the half to cut the lead from 14 to 11 wasn't ideal, but the Nittany Lion offense got into a bit of a rhythm and moved the ball well. Remember this if they come back.
  • Overall, the Penn State offense isn't playing poorly, they're just not fully executing. The defense, on the other hand, has some things to clean up. The defense line has to find a way to get pressure on Morgan or he'll continue to sit back and complete passes.

Anyone expecting a cakewalk to 9-0 was mistaken. This Gopher team is motivated to prove that they're better than their No. 17 ranking, and the fans are doing all they can to push their team forward. If Penn State is to hand Minnesota its first loss, it will need to find a new level of production in the second half. Here's to hoping they can do just that.

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