Less than a week before the Gophers face Auburn in the New Year's Day Outback Bowl, stunning news broke Thursday morning as offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca has left the Gophers for the same job with the Penn State Nittany Lions.
Penn State confirmed Ciarrocca as its new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach shortly after rumors began to spread that he could work under head coach James Franklin, who is good friends with Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck.
"I couldn't be more excited about the opportunity to work at a program as rich in tradition as Penn State University," Ciarrocca said in a release. "It is an honor and a privilege to join Coach Franklin's staff and to work alongside such a successful head football coach. Having grown up a Penn State fan, I am humbled by the opportunity to serve as your offensive coordinator. My family and I are overjoyed to be coming home to Happy Valley."
Ciarrocca is a native of Lewisberry, Pennsylvania, which is about 100 miles southeast of State College, where Penn State is located.
Ciarrocca came to Minnesota with Fleck three years ago after coaching together at Western Michigan. Last January, Ciarrocca reportedly turned down an offer to become the offensive coordinator at West Virginia.
Minnesota's offense ranked 108th in the country in 2017, averaging 22.1 points per game. that number ballooned to 28.9 points per game (65th nationally) in 2018, with the offense exploding this season to 22nd nationally at 34.3 points per game.
Penn State is also averaging 34.3 points per game this season.
Ciarrocc was a semifinalist this season for the Broyles Award, which goes to the nation's top assistant coach.
The Gophers have not announced who will hand play-calling duties against Auburn.