MINNEAPOLIS — The progress made by Minnesota in coach P.J. Fleck’s third season had been met by natural skepticism outside the long-languishing program, with even the most ardent fans in full prove-it mode for this game of unbeaten teams against Penn State.
From start to finish, the Gophers matched the moment.
They took down the Nittany Lions with a narrative-altering performance.
Jordan Howden picked off Sean Clifford’s pass in the end zone with 1:01 left, the third interception thrown by Penn State’s quarterback, and 13th-ranked Minnesota held on for a 31-26 victory Saturday afternoon for its first win over a top-five team in 20 years.
Tanner Morgan passed for 339 yards and three touchdowns in a dismantling of fifth-ranked Penn State’s staunch defense, as Minnesota (9-0, 6-0, No. 17 CFP) stayed on track for its first trip to the Big Ten championship game.
For a program has not won the conference since a shared title in 1967, this is a whole new world.
The first sellout crowd for the Gophers at home in four years swarmed the field after the clock ran out, reveling in the first win at home over a top-five team since a shutout of No. 1 Michigan in 1977.
The Gophers scrambled the College Football Playoff picture a bit, too, after Penn State (8-1, 5-1, No. 4 CFP) emerged with a top-four spot in the first edition of the rankings.
Louisiana State 46, Alabama 41
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Joe Burrow passed for 393 yards and three touchdowns and No. 1 Louisiana State snapped an eight-game losing streak to No. 2 Alabama with a 46-41 victory Saturday.
The Tigers (9-0, 5-0 Southeastern Conference, No. 2 CFP) are no longer second fiddle in the SEC West, or maybe in the playoff rankings, and Burrow stamped himself as the Heisman Trophy front-runner with a gutty performance when he answered every challenge from ‘Bama.
The Crimson Tide (8-1, 5-1, No. 3 CFP) rallied from a 33-13 halftime deficit to three times to pull within a touchdown in the fourth quarter. It seemingly kept going from game seemingly over to game on.
Wisconsin 24, Iowa 22
MADISON, Wis. — Jonathan Taylor rushed for a season-high 250 yards and Danny Davis ran for a touchdown and caught another as No. 16 Wisconsin outlasted No. 18 Iowa, 24-22, Saturday.
Taylor became the first running back this season to rush for more than 100 yards against Iowa as Wisconsin (7-2, 4-2 Big Ten, No. 13 College Football Playoff) held on to the Heartland Trophy, given each year to the winner of this game.
Wisconsin has beaten Iowa four straight times.
Quintez Cephus caught five passes for 94 yards and a score to help Wisconsin stay in contention for the Big Ten West crown.
After trailing, 21-6, at the end of the third quarter, the Hawkeyes (6-3, 3-3, No. 18 CFP) outscored the Badgers 16-3 in the fourth, but couldn’t come all the way back.
Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley was stopped short of the goal line on a potential game-tying two-point conversion attempt with 3:12 remaining.
Sacramento State 38, Northern Arizona 34
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Pierre Williams recovered an onside kick that led to his to his game-winning touchdown reception with 23 seconds left, the Hornets, second score in the final 1:38, and Sacramento State beat Northern Arizona, 38-34, Saturday.
Jake Dunniway threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to Isaiah Gable before Devon Medeiros booted an onside kick over NAU’s front line of defenders that Williams was able to snare at the Hornets 49-yard line.
Five plays later Dunniway found Williams alone on the left side and he dove onto the pylon.
The Lumberjacks (4-6, 2-4 Big Sky) used a 73-yard pass play from Case Cookus to Stacy Chukwumezie, a 54-yard field goal by Luis Aguilar and Joe Logan’s 63-yard run in the final quarter to take a 34-24 lead. Logan finished with 210 yards rushing on 24 carries and three TDs.
Dunniway threw for 384 yards, four touchdowns and an interception for the FCS eighth-ranked Hornets (7-3, 5-1). Two of the TD passes went to Marshel Martin.