Penn State stopped the bleeding and gets to feel good about itself for a week, and that sliver of confidence may be the springboard to turning this disappointing season around.
But there is still a mountain of work to be done before anyone should start feeling confident about this team.
The thought here is the Nittany Lions will still finish 5-7, beating Indiana and no one else. Call me a wet blanket, but very little of what PSU showed against Minnesota on Saturday made me believe the season is salvageable.
Any time you score more points than the other team, it's a good win. So in that regard, the 33-21 victory was indeed exactly what the beleaguered Lions needed.
But let's be clear here: Minnesota is terrible.
The Golden Gophers almost certainly are going to finish 1-11. They're 1-7 now and have games left at home against Ohio State and Iowa and on the road at Michigan State and Illinois. They probably will be double-digit underdogs the rest of the way and lose badly in every game.
Still, Minnesota racked up 433 yards of total offense -- 299 through the air -- against PSU's defense. It had a running back gain 111 yards and a receiver with 103. The Gophers had 26 first downs and controlled time of possession, 33:40 to 26:20.
The Lions had 145 yards rushing, which seems good but not when you consider Minnesota was giving up an average of 201.
All those stats are troubling, especially since they came from players whose spirit has been crushed by their own disastrous season that resulted in their coach being fired.
The Gophers' unforced mistakes, not anything PSU was doing particularly well, played a big role in deciding the game. Case in point was Adam Weber's awful interception into double coverage on first down at the Lion 33 late in the second quarter with his team trailing, 14-7.
Weber is a senior who has thrown for more than 10,000 yards, and he simply cannot make that poor of a decision and throw. All Penn State did on the play was take advantage of his stupid decision.
D'Anton Lynn played center field, picked it off and broke free for 58 yards on the return, then Matt McGloin fired a 42-yard TD pass that changed the entire game. Give credit where credit is due, and that's to the PSU offensive coaching staff and McGloin for a big-time play.
But if Weber doesn't make that mistake -- and given the Lions' poor red zone defense all season -- the Gophers probably would have scored a TD to tie it at 14 and set up a real dogfight.
Joe Paterno always wants to give credit to the other guy, but sometimes the other guy is so bad that he makes you look good. That's what happened Saturday.
But OK. All that matters is the Lions won, they have some confidence and will go into this week's game against Michigan on a positive note.
If Penn State can beat the Wolverines, then sure, I'll come around and say this team is capable of surprising some people.
It's more likely, though, that Denard Robinson and the Michigan offense will shred PSU's defense, meaning the only way the Lions can win would be if it's a shootout. Michigan's lousy defense makes that possible.
If Rob Bolden can't play as he recovers from a possible concussion, there's little reason to believe the Lions can go toe-to-toe with Michigan's offense.
Prediction: Michigan 31, Penn State 23
SUBHD: Afterthoughts ...
* Bolden's status will be updated today by the school, a Penn State spokesman said Sunday.
* The thing the Lions did best Saturday was hang in there mentally after Bolden and safety Andrew Dailey went down with injuries. It would have been easy for them to hang their heads seeing two more teammates on the turf after everything that's gone wrong in that department, but the players remained focused.
* PSU is dead last in the country in red zone defense, ranking 120th. It is the only team in the nation that has allowed points every time an opponent has reached the red zone. The opposition has made it there 15 times, scoring 11 touchdowns and four field goals.
* Aaron Maybin may be a huge bust in the NFL, but it's crazy to ridicule the former All-American defensive end for leaving Penn State early. Maybin, the No. 11 pick in the 2009 draft, signed a five-year contract that guarantees him $15 million from the Buffalo Bills. He has yet to make any kind of impact with the Bills and was a healthy scratch Sunday, which is embarrassing and alarming. But Maybin has his money, and it's highly doubtful staying at PSU any longer would have earned him any more of it. It's also possible coming back would have exposed him as a fraud after one great season in college, thereby killing his draft status. If Maybin never accomplishes anything in the NFL, he'll still be a very rich man.
Cory Giger is the host of "Sports Central" from 4 to 6 p.m. daily on ESPN Radio 1430 WVAM. He can be reached at 949-7031 or email@example.com.