MINNEAPOLIS - D'Anton Lynn's first instinct was to take a knee following his interception in the end zone late in the first half Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium.
But as Lynn spun left, he noticed plenty of daylight so he quickly began his return.
"I saw it as a momentum boost," Lynn said after Penn State's 33-21 win over Minnesota that he ignited. "I figured what was the worst thing that could happen?"
He paused and smiled, saying, "I've been yelled at before."
Joe Paterno has been preaching turnovers - the Lions are ninth in the Big Ten in turnover margin and 71st nationally - and Tom Bradley, too, was all for Lynn's idea, especially once he saw "the wall of blockers."
"Normally, I'd give him the dickens for not getting down," Bradley said. "That was a big play - a dramatic change in field position."
Lynn's 58-yard return with 4:24 left in the first half set up Matt McGloin's 42-yard touchdown strike to Derek Moye on the next play. With it came a 21-7 lead and a sudden shift to the 4-3 season.
"You have to make something happen for yourself," Paterno said, citing the lack of turnovers in Penn State's three losses this season. "That [Lynn's play] was very important."
The Lions used their open date to rekindle needed enthusiasm and leadership. Though Minnesota is now 1-7 and very possibly the Big Ten's worst team, Penn State had to start somewhere.
The Nits showed character in overcoming an injury to their starting quarterback, Rob Bolden, and in losing yet another defensive starter in safety Andrew Dailey.
Backup quarterback Matt McGloin used the opportunity to throw a pair of touchdown passes to Derek Moye, and Kevin Newsome showed he can be a threat in a running offense as the quarterback position was strengthened in Bolden's absence.
The offensive line stayed on blocks longer in the second half, freeing Evan Royster and Silas Reed to combine for 133 yards, and the defense played with a resolve that it has not shown most of the season.
Most of all, on both sides of the ball, the Lions displayed a fight that heretofore had been noticeably missing.
"I think losing three games wakes you up and makes you realize we've got to get it turned around," senior guard Stefen Wisniewski said. "We don't want to lose Penn State's luster."
JoePa sensed the team played with "more bounce" and "the sideline was better. We were having a little fun out there."
Even when Minnesota took the second-half kickoff and marched 75 yards on 11 plays, cutting the Lions' lead to 21-14, Penn State answered with a field goal and a pair of defensive stops before McGloin's second touchdown - a short, touch fade to Moye - put the game away early in the fourth quarter.
"I think this proves we're bouncing back, [that] our team attitude is better, and we can win on the road," Wisniewski said. "We realized we needed to change our attitude and play with more enthusiasm."
After failing to rattle Minnesota veteran quarterback Adam Weber early, the Lions' second-half effort came up with a sack by Devon Still in the end zone that resulted in a safety and several hurries.
Safety Malcolm Willis, pressed into service after the Lions lost Dailey, who was replacing Nick Sukay, epitomized the defense's resilience.
"This puts confidence back in us," Willis said. "We are reassured that we're a team that can win. We needed to make sure everybody was on the same page."
Wisniewski said the players set a goal to win their remaining six games, and all but the Nov. 13 trip to Columbus seems attainable - starting with a Saturday night visit from Michigan.
"One down," Wisniewski said, "and five to go."
Wary of the Wolverines' offense, JoePa said, "we're going to need to score points."
Unlike a week ago, they'll at least be able to scheme in a positive frame of mind.
Rudel can be reached at 946-7527 or email@example.com.