Penn State quarterback Daryll Clark was so impressed with Derek Moye’s stretching catch at the side of the end zone, he watched the replay on a stadium video screen for another look.
The officials took a second glance, too, and what they saw changed their minds.
Moye’s toe-dragging, 12-yard grab just before halftime was overturned from an incomplete pass to a touchdown that gave the 14th-ranked Nittany Lions’ stifling defense more than enough cushion to work with in a 20-0 victory Saturday against Minnesota.
“I was just impressed with the catch. Then I saw the referee rule incomplete,” Clark said. “We looked at it on film and I celebrated. He was in, touchdown definitely.”
Evan Royster ran for 137 yards and Navorro Bowman had eight tackles to lead Penn State’s league-leading defense to its first shutout since November 2007.
“We did move the ball well, but we didn’t do a particularly good job when we got in the red zone. I think the penalties hurt us,” Paterno said. “Overall, it was a good performance.”
Buoyed by the return of star linebacker Sean Lee from a sprained left knee, Penn State (6-1, 2-1 Big Ten) held a foe without a first-half touchdown for the seventh straight game. The defense held Minnesota star receiver Eric Decker to one catch—a 42-yard reception late in the third quarter.
The shutout warmed the homecoming crowd bundled in parkas and winter coats after a storm dumped more than 6 inches of snow the previous day. Penn State said the 37 degrees at kickoff at Beaver Stadium was the coldest on record for homecoming at the school.
The university closed grass lots around the stadium because of the snow, and asked fans to limit tailgating to conserve space.
The blue-and-white faithful celebrated anyway—both outside and inside the stadium—though the Nittany Lions overcame an uncharacteristically high number of mistakes and penalties.
Penn State held decisive edges in total offense (464-138), first downs (21-7) and time of possession, holding the ball for 41:59. It was the longest Penn State held possession in a game since 1991.
“To be a good defense you have to handle adversity well, and in some situations we didn’t do that,” Minnesota linebacker Lee Campbell said.
Penn State also had nine penalties for 76 yards, though Royster and Moye helped give their defense more than enough cushion over the struggling Gophers (4-3, 2-2) in chilly Happy Valley.
“We’re really frustrated because we felt like we had a great opportunity, especially in this kind of environment and this kind of weather we felt we had the opportunity to do something special,” Minnesota quarterback Adam Weber said. “Very frustrated. This game hurts.”
Clark overcame a middling start to finish 21 of 32 passing for 287 yards and the touchdown pass to Moye. He also scored a 1-yard TD run to give Penn State a 20-point lead in the third quarter.
Moye, who finished with six catches for 120 yards, made several pretty receptions, including the TD catch in which he barely managed to keep his feet in the end zone before falling out of bounds.
It was the second review that went Penn State’s way on a drive that gave the Nittany Lions a 13-0 lead late in the first half.
“I’ve always been for instant replay,” Paterno said. “I think instant replay is a good thing for everybody.”
The Gophers’ offense finally found traction early in the fourth quarter, driving to the Penn State 1. That didn’t go well either after running back Kevin Whaley was stuffed on fourth down on a sweep left by Bowman and cornerback A.J. Wallace just short of the goal line.
Weber felt pressure from Penn State’s front line most of the day and finished 10 of 22 for 101 yards and an interception. Decker had his second straight sub-par game, after catching three balls for 50 yards the previous week.
Lee hadn’t played since Week 3. The defensive captain played mostly on passing downs, finishing with two tackles on a unit that shut down a Minnesota offense that was averaging 27 points a game.
“This game really was a game from the start we thought we could dominate this team,” Bowman said. “We weren’t going to let this team get anything, we weren’t going to give them anything.”