PSU-Minnesota highs, lows

MINNEAPOLIS – Following are the highlights and lowlights from Penn State’s 24-10 loss to Minnesota on Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium:

Play of the game: Minnesota quarterback Philip Nelson hit tight end Maxx Williams, who was alone behind the Penn State secondary, for a 24-yard touchdown pass that pushed the Gophers’ lead to 24-10 with 17 seconds left in the first half.

Offensive player of the game: Nelson completed 15-of-24 passes for 186 yards and a touchdown. He was not intercepted. Nelson also gained 40 yards on 11 rushes and another TD.

Defensive player of the game: Minnesota cornerback Eric Murray made a game-high nine tackles, including eight solos, and recovered a fumble.

Most telling statistic: Penn State converted a combined 2-of-12 on third and fourth down compared with Minnesota’s 12-of-20.

Hidden statistic: The Gophers won time of possession, 35:28-24:32, including 19:20-10:40 in the first half.

Best run: Minnesota running back David Cobb burst 44 yards from his own 2 to pull the Gopher out of a third-quarter hole.

Best pass: Leading 10-7, on fourth-and-8 from the PSU 29, Nelson rifled an 11-yard slant to Donovahn Jones. Four plays later, the Gophers took a 17-7 lead.

Worst pass: Christian Hackenberg badly missed an open Bill Belton in the red zone (right flat) in the fourth quarter.

Best catch: Allen Robinson did a nice job to snag a 12-yarder in front of the PSU bench in the fourth quarter.

Catch it, will ya: Malcolm Willis had a shot at an early interception and with the way Penn State’s offense is playing, it could have used a short field.

Hold it, won’t ya: Two fumbles badly hurt Penn State: Belton’s on the game’s first play, which Minnesota cashed into a 3-0 lead, and Hackenberg’s fumbled snap at the Minnesota 1 in the fourth quarter, wiping out the Nittany Lions’ last breath.

Best block: Garry Gilliam escorted Zach Zwinak’s 12-yard touchdown that drew the Lions within 10-7 late in the first quarter.

Best tackle: After Penn State trimmed the lead to 10-7, Lion freshman Brandon Bell saved an even bigger kickoff return by Antonio Johnson with a shoe-string tackle.

Best hit: Lion corner Adrian Amos decked Nelson, who should have run out of bounds, in the first quarter.

Best kick: Both punters did a nice job battling windy conditions. Minnesota’s Peter Mortell had a 62-yarder downed at the PSU 2 in the third quarter.

Best call: With the Lions struggling to handle the edges, Minnesota sprung a QB option that Nelson turned into a 6-yard TD and put the Gophers up 17-7 in the second quarter.

Worst call: On second-and-10 from the Minnesota 16, PSU dialed up a low-percentage fade to Brandon Felder. It wasn’t close.

Worst penalty: Murray’s spectacular interception in the end zone, with the Gophers leading 17-7 in the second quarter, was wiped out because Minnesota defensive end Hendrick Ekpe lined up offsides.

Best effort: Legendary Minneapolis sports columnist Sid Hartman, at 93 years old, was once again working in the press box.

Unsung hero: Mortell averaged 46.0 yards on four punts and had three downed at the 1, 2 and 12.