It took a half to get revved up, and then the machine started working. The Nittany Lions came up with 28 third quarter points after getting down 10-7 going into halftime. It appeared to be a case of not clicking in the first half as opposed to there being any major problem, but …
The running game didn’t work. Sean Clifford threw four touchdown passes, but he shouldn’t be the team’s leading rusher. He ripped off one huge dash, and finished with 51 yards on the ground, but there wasn’t enough of a push up front. Buffalo held up well, at least early on.
The O never seemed to have the ball. Buffalo controlled the clock and the game, mostly because Penn State couldn’t hit on third downs. It turned into a blowout win after executing better in the second half, but the final score was misleading.
That’s what Spartan fans have been waiting a long, long time for. The defense did its part for three quarters, but it didn’t have to work too hard. The O did its part with 21 first quarter points in an explosive overall performance, looking nothing like the attack that sputtered and coughed at the end of last season.
Elijah Collins ran for 192 yards, and Darrell Stewart caught ten passes for 185 yards and a touchdown, but this was about Brian Lewerke looking like he’s supposed to. He hit WMU for 314 yards and three scores, and he took the stress out of the game right away.
Now the competition is ramped up a bit with Arizona State coming to town, but there’s not a whole lot of offensive punch to worry about. The D that allowed just 67 WMU yards on the ground and forced three takeaways shouldn’t have a problem.
2-0 is 2-0 is 2-0, but for the second straight week, the Gophers had to work way too hard to get the job done. When needed, they went all Big Ten on the non-Power Fiver and rammed the running game to the win. There wasn’t a consistent ground attack – averaging under three yards per carry – but it was there when needed.
The defense was fantastic against the run, but it took a pick from Antoine Winfield in overtime to finally take away the Bulldog passing game. The Gopher D generated pressure and forced two interceptions, but it struggled too much to take over the game.
Minnesota can’t be so sloppy. Too many of the seven penalties were in big moments, and the three turnovers – all fumbles – kept Fresno State alive. Next week against Georgia Southern and its running game, the Gophers have to take over the time of possession battle early, get the O line in a lather, and the D has to get off the field fast.