NCAA

No. 13 Minnesota tops No. 5 PSU 31-26 in match of unbeatens

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No. 13 Minnesota tops No. 5 PSU 31-26 in match of unbeatens

MINNEAPOLIS --

Minnesota's Jordan Howden picked off Sean Clifford in the end zone with 1:01 left, the third interception was thrown by Penn State's quarterback, and the 13th-ranked Gophers held on for a 31-26 victory on Saturday afternoon over the fifth-ranked Nittany Lions for their first win over a top-five team in 20 years.

Tanner Morgan passed for 339 yards and three touchdowns to direct dismantling of Penn State's staunch defense, as Minnesota (9-0, 6-0, No. 17 CFP) not only remained undefeated but stayed on track for its first trip to the Big Ten championship game.

The first sellout crowd for the Gophers at home in four years swarmed the field after the clock ran out, reveling in the biggest step forward yet under coach P.J. Fleck in his third season. The Gophers scrambled the College Football Playoff picture, too, after Penn State (8-1, 5-1, No. 4 CFP) emerged with a top-four spot in the first edition of the rankings.

Rashod Bateman got the Gophers going with a 66-yard score on their first possession and finished with seven catches for 203 yards, the second-most in program history. Tyler Johnson had seven receptions for 104 yards and a touchdown, too, as Minnesota made enough early gains to hold up during the late rally by Penn State.

Journey Brown's second rushing touchdown of the game with 3:49 to go cut the lead to five points and the Gophers promptly went three and out. K.J. Hamler muffed the punt when a teammate backed into him, and though the Nittany Lions recovered, they were pushed back to their 28-yard line.

Clifford, who went 23 for 43 for 340 yards and one score, connected with Jahan Dotson for 49 yards to get Penn State to the 11. Two plays later, however, came the drive killer for Penn State. Daniel George was called for offensive pass interference during an over-the-middle catch by Brown that reached the 2. Clifford, who was off-target for most of the day, overthrew George on the next play before the game-sealing pick by Howden. Clifford, who came into the game leading the Big Ten in total offense, had only three interceptions over the first eight games.

Antoine Winfield Jr. had the first two picks in the first half, matching the FBS lead and setting the all-time Minnesota record with seven on the season. Both were inside the 10-yard line.

The Gophers had 321 yards and a 24-13 lead at halftime, already the most points allowed in a game by the Nittany Lions this season, but a fumble near midfield by Shannon Brooks at the end of a run on the first play after a punt sapped some momentum.

Penn State went the other way for a touchdown pass from Clifford to backup tight end Nick Bowers, but Bateman broke open again for a 36-yard gain on the next drive to set up a scoring plunge by Seth Green. The Gophers have touchdowns on all 19 of their goal-to-go possessions this season. Chris Williamson batted down Clifford's fourth-down throw into the end zone on the ensuing drive by Penn State, giving the Gophers another opportunity to drain the clock.

THE TAKEAWAY

Penn State: Seeking their first berth in the College Football Playoff, the Nittany Lions watched a defense that had allowed the second-fewest points in the FBS entering the game take a step back against a group of Gophers receivers that was the best they'd faced all year.

Minnesota: Ending a 13-game losing streak to ranked opponents and beating a top-five team for the first time since a win at No. 2 Penn State in 1999, the Gophers produced a potentially program-changing victory that has been missing for so many decades. They have a two-game lead in the West Division with three to go.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Penn State could fall behind Minnesota, which will certainly climb into the top 10 when the next rankings come out on Sunday. The loss will also hurt the Nittany Lions in the CFP pecking order, with the Gophers getting a boost but still with a long way to go to be in the mix.

UP NEXT

Penn State: Hosts Indiana next Saturday. The Nittany Lions have a 21-1 record against the Hoosiers, with the only loss on the road 2013.

Minnesota: Plays at Iowa next Saturday. The Gophers have lost four straight games against the Hawkeyes.

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Heart condition linked to coronavirus a concern for Power 5 programs

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Heart condition linked to coronavirus a concern for Power 5 programs

As the Big Ten and other Power 5 conferences decide whether or not to have fall sports, numerous factors are part of the decision. The risk of infection during the coronavirus pandemic is enough in itself to halt plans, but a potential condition linked to the virus has become a major concern for many.

Myocarditis, which is the inflammation of the heart muscle, is a rare viral infection that studies have shown may be potentially linked to the coronavirus at a higher frequency than other viruses. It can be fatal if left untreated. Though uncommon, it has been found in several college athletes including five in the Big Ten, according to ESPN.

The Mid-American Conference postponed its fall season on Saturday, in part due to initial studies on Myocarditis.

"What we don't know was really haunting us, and that's why we came to our final decision," Northern Illinois athletic director Sean Frazier said. "That's part of the data that our presidents used. This mom gave us a play-by-play. That stuff is extremely scary."

With much still unknown about conditions connected to the virus, Power 5 programs and administrators are now faced with the risk of exposing their athletes and staff to complications beyond the initial infection of COVID-19. 

Testing and lags are problems that exist as well, but there is a larger body of work to show how those factors can impact a person and team. As for the rare heart condition, there are still numerous unanswered questions about the long terms effects.

Though the desire is there to have football and other sports be played, many understand that the risk may outweigh the reward.

"We are collectively, as a sports nation, not quite ready to feel entirely comfortable with what that may look like for our young people down the line, and we are not going to put them in that situation," Dr. John MacKnight, the head primary care team physician at the University of Virginia, said during a recent availability.

"There have been some concerns raised for that very reason: Do you not have uneasiness about having athletes participating knowing that you don't know what that longer-range outlook is? The answer is of course, yes," MacKnight said. "We don't have enough information to say this is the likelihood that this will or will not happen."

So while some players and coaches are campaigning for a season, reports that the Big Ten and others may soon announce the cancellation of the season run deeper than the fear of infection. Though that is a concern, there are additional, long term problems that could arise. 

It's a legitimate concern, and one that could derail the fall season for college sports.

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President Trump favors college football being played in 2020 amid coronavirus pandemic

President Trump favors college football being played in 2020 amid coronavirus pandemic

President Donald Trump wants to see college football played this fall despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

"The student-athletes have been working too hard for their season to be cancelled," Trump tweeted on Monday.

Trump's post was a quote tweet response to Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, arguably the brightest star in college football and likely No. 1 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Lawrence was one of many notable players across the country to tweet the hashtag #WeWantToPlay on Sunday following multiple reports that the college football season could be canceled or postponed as early as this week.

Following Sunday's reports that the season likely won't happen, Lawrence was one of several stars from multiple Power 5 teams that joined a Zoom call Sunday evening to attempt and organize a plan for players to express their opinion on the why they should play and ultimately save the season. 

Other notable names such as Ohio State's Justin Fields, Alabama's Najee Harris, and Oregon's Penei Sewell were on the call, according to ESPN. Since then, college football players have reportedly attempted to unionize as one final push to save the season.

Lawrence also explained in detail on Sunday why he feels there should be a college football season. The Clemson QB tweeted Sunday night saying he believes that canceling the season would actually put college football players more at risk of the contracting virus.

"Players being safe and taking all of the right precautions to try to avoid contracting covid because the season/ teammates safety is on the line. Without the season, as we’ve seen already, people will not social distance or wear masks and take the proper precautions," Lawrence wrote on his Twitter thread. 

While the outlook for the 2020 college football season doesn't look promising, Lawrence and several of the sport's biggest names are not going down without a fight. And based off President Trump's tweet, it looks as if he's on the players' side.

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