STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) -- Justin Fraley's timing was perfect.
Fraley intercepted Michael Robinson's pass on the Minnesota 36,
and Marion Barber III gained 49 of his 134 rushing yards on the
Golden Gophers' next possession as Minnesota (No. 20 ESPN/USA Today, No. 24 AP) held off Penn
State 20-14 Saturday in the Big Ten opener for both teams.
Fraley's interception set up Minnesota's final scoring drive,
which took 6:17 and ended with Rhys Lloyd's 30-yard field goal,
giving Minnesota (5-0) a 20-14 lead with 2:21 left.
"I know that the wide receiver has a landmark to get to. I just
tried to get there first, and I did," Fraley said. "That felt
like a momentum-changer."
Michael Robinson, in after Zack Mills sprained his left knee,
drove Penn State (2-3) to the Minnesota 15 with 25 seconds left,
but overthrew Gerald Smith in the end zone on fourth down, turning
the ball over and ending the game.
"I talked to them all week about preparing for this to come
down to the last play, because that's how it was last time,"
Minnesota coach Glen Mason said. "We sort of knew it would be like
this. We're happy to be 5-0."
Mason and Minnesota have won three straight against Penn State,
including two in Happy Valley. In the last meeting here, on Nov. 6,
1999, Minnesota upset then-No. 2 Penn State 24-23 on Dan Nystrom's
last-second field goal.
After Penn State fell behind 14-0, Robinson engineered two
touchdown drives in the second quarter, bringing the Nittany Lions
to 17-14 on a 10-yard touchdown run with 2:04 left.
After holding the Gophers to three-and-out, Penn State drove to
the Minnesota 11, where Robinson's pass was tipped at the line with
7 seconds left. The field judge first called the pass incomplete,
but after the officials huddled it was ruled intercepted by
Terrance Campbell. Replays showed the ball hitting the ground.
Nittany Lions coach Joe Paterno came onto the field to argue
with officials after the call. At halftime, he out an official at
midfield to again challenge the call.
It's not the first time Paterno has had trouble with Big Ten
officials. Last year, after a 42-35 overtime loss to Iowa, he raced
across the field and grabbed an official by the shoulder to protest
a controversial call. After a similar controversial call went
against the Nittany Lions in an overtime loss at Michigan, Paterno
called for a comprehensive review of Big Ten officiating.
But this time, Paterno was not as critical after the game,
saying he didn't see the play and that there was little he could do
"I couldn't tell if it hit the ground or not. Everyone on our
sideline thought it hit the ground and was not an interception,"
Paterno said. "I said (to the official), 'It bounced," and he
said, 'It didn't.' What else is there to say? I said, 'I think it
bounced,' and he said, 'We don't think so."
It was Paterno's 600th game at Penn State, and his 444th as head
coach. His 338 wins are the most in major college football.
Minnesota started the game with a successful onside kick, taking
the ball at its own 47. Although the Gophers didn't score on that
possession, they pinned Penn State deep in its own territory and
started their next possession inside Penn State territory. Barber's
11-yard touchdown run gave Minnesota a 7-0 lead.
Laurence Maroney's 4-yard touchdown run capped a 12-play,
99-yard drive to make it 14-0 late in the first.
Austin Scott scored Penn State's first touchdown on a 1-yard