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Nebraska 17 … at Penn State 14

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Nov 12, 2011


CFN Week 11 Fearless Prediction - Nebraska at Penn State

2011 Prediction & Game Story

Week 11, Nebraska at Penn St

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Nov. 12 Nebraska 17 … at Penn State 14

CFN Analysis: The story was all about Penn State, but don’t forget that Nebraska had to deal with a tough environment, too, and it came up with a big performance under emotional circumstances. The defense came up with a whale of a game, especially LB Lavonte David nine tackles, mostly in big moments, while Will Compton checked in with 13 tackles. … The D came up with just one sack, but it generated consistent enough pressure to screw things up. … Rex Burkhead continues to be the team’s MVP. Taylor Martinez threw well, but it was Burkhead’s 121 yards and a score that was the difference. … It’ll take a Michigan State loss, but Nebraska is still in the mix for the Legends title, first needing to beat out Michigan and Iowa.

Penn State got through the game. Beyond the emotion and beyond everything that happened this week, the Nittany Lions simply lost to a strong team. The rally made things interesting, but there isn’t enough of a passing game to win a game like this. … Matt McGloin went the entire way, completing 16-of-34 passes for 193 yards. Rob Bolden didn’t get on the field. … On Senior Day, Stephfon Green ran 17 times for 81 yards and two touchdowns, keying the comeback attempt, but Silas Redd is the team’s best offensive weapon and he only got 15 carries for 53 yards. … The Leaders title is still there for the taking, and next week’s game at Ohio State doesn’t matter unless Wisconsin loss to Iowa. If the Nittany Lions beat the Badgers, they’re playing for the Big Ten title.

(AP) STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Capping the worst week in school history, No. 12 Penn State couldn't overcome a 17-point deficit and was stopped short on a fourth-and-1 late in a 17-14 loss Saturday to No. 19 Nebraska.

The outcome was secondary in Happy Valley.

A tumultuous chapter that began with the arrest of former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky on shocking child sexual abuse charges ended Saturday with Penn State (8-2, 5-1 Big Ten) losing in its first game of the post-Joe Paterno era. The winningest major college football coach ever was fired Wednesday.

Rex Burkhead ran for 121 yards and a touchdown for Nebraska (8-2, 4-2) before the Nittany Lions scored 14 points on two second-half touchdown runs by Stephfon Green.

But a key drive ended when Silas Redd was stopped on the fourth down with 1:49 left at the Penn State 38.

School president Rod Erickson met the Nittany Lions in the locker room afterward and praised, "how much courage, how much heart, and how much character" the players had, he said.

Most Penn State fans heeded calls for a "blueout," wearing the school's familiar dark blue in support of victims of child sexual abuse. Fans formed the outline of a blue ribbon in the student section.

"We are ... Penn State," roared the crowd through the afternoon, the signature State College cheer.

But this school's identity has forever changed.

"I think today it just made the healing process start to begin," interim coach Tom Bradley said.

Sandusky, architect of the "Linebacker U." defenses, was charged last weekend with sexually abusing eight boys over 15 years. The athletic director and a university vice president were charged with perjury and failure to report a 2002 allegation to police, and Paterno was fired following mounting fury he did not do more about the charge -- that Sandusky assaulted a boy in the Penn State football showers -- than pass it along to his bosses. President Graham Spanier also was ousted for similar reasons.

The last time Penn State played a game at Beaver Stadium, on Oct. 29, Paterno was feted by Spanier for his 409th career victory, the most in Division I history.

On Saturday, he was nowhere to be found -- save for a few fleeting images on the video boards overhead. That was enough to get spontaneous cheers of "Joe Paterno!" ringing through the stands.

"It was a tough game. There were a lot of emotions going on," said linebacker Nate Stupar, who had a team-high 13 tackles. "I used the emotions to fuel the fire."

Paterno started as an assistant in 1950, then took over as head coach in 1966. It was Penn State's first game without Paterno on staff since Nov. 19, 1949, a 19-0 loss at Pittsburgh.

But in many respects, it was like any other fall Saturday in Happy Valley. Massive 6-foot-5 defensive tackle Devon Still hit ball carriers with typical ferocity and the Nittany Lions played another close, low-scoring game -- as they have all year.

Penn State's first play from scrimmage was a fullback run up the middle -- a Paterno favorite. The offense struggled again.

And someone named "Paterno" wore a path on the sideline wearing jet black Nike sneakers.

Just not that Paterno.

Paterno's son, quarterback coach Jay Paterno, moved down from his usual spot in the press box to relay plays from the sideline -- a job once held by assistant coach Mike McQueary.

"We've had better weeks in our lives, obviously," Jay Paterno said. "I think about a week ago, where we were sitting, the world's kind of turned upside down, but I think our kids were resilient."

McQueary was among the missing after being placed on indefinite paid leave Friday by the school. His name surfaced as a grand jury witness to the 2002 abuse charge. Sandusky, who retired in 1999 but lives in the area and had access to school facilities, maintains his innocence.

McQueary, Joe Paterno says, told him that Sandusky had behaved inappropriately, but not to the extent of the detailed testimony. Paterno then passed the information on to Curley, but the report was not given to police.

News of the scandal elicited threats to McQueary, the school said, and brought heightened security.

But there were no visible problems during the game.

"Personally I felt this was a time to play, but also was time we could recognize and bring national focus to the problem of sexual abuse," Erickson said. "Our players and everyone involved, the way they conducted themselves today, proved that this was the right decision. This was the way to do it."

By the second half, fans seemed most concerned about whether the Nittany Lions could get back into the game.

The Corhuskers built a 17-0 lead, with Burkhead gashing Penn State's staunch D on 25 carries. He motored 14 yards into the end zone with 8:51 left in the third quarter for a 17-0 lead.

Then came the second-half push from Green on Senior Day -- his last game at Beaver Stadium.

The senior scored from 5 yards with 5:07 in the third quarter, then added a 6-yard run at 5:42 of the fourth to get Penn State within three. Green finished with 71 yards on 17 carries.

But the offense faltered on two late drives, including the fourth-and-1 stop of Redd. Out of timeouts with 49 seconds left, the Nittany Lions got the ball back but could get no farther than their own 46 before time expired.

The fans cheered anyway, and greeted the Nittany Lions with one more chorus of "We are ... Penn State."

Nebraska (7-2) at Penn State (8-1) Nov. 12, 12:00, ESPN/ESPN3

Here’s The Deal … Penn State is still going to play Nebraska on Saturday.

For around four hours, the Penn State football program will try to go on with life as normal, even though life as the Penn State football program knew it is gone.

The scandal surrounding the university and the firing of Joe Paterno overshadows everything and anything about this game, which under normal circumstances might be seen as a possible Big Ten Championship preview with Penn State leading the Leaders by two games and Nebraska in the thick of the Legends hunt despite a clunker of a loss to Northwestern last week.

Under normal circumstances, this would be a glorious moment for the Big Ten and a time to look back on one of the greatest regular season games in college football history – the 1982 Penn State win that propelled the program to Paterno’s first national championship – and the 44-6 Husker destruction of the Nittany Lions in the 1983 opener that set the tone for a dominant regular season run.

Under normal circumstances, this might be the biggest showdown in a relatively light week of big games, and this would be the moment when Penn State was able to prove that the 8-1 start to the season is for real before diving into the dates at Ohio State and Wisconsin to close out the regular season. Under normal circumstances, the focus would be on Senior Day and Penn State’s home game of the year.

But these are hardly normal circumstances.

On the field, the football side of the Penn State program tried to prepare like it’s business as usual, but now it'll have to do it with defensive coordinator Tom Bradley at the helm. He takes over with the Nittany Lions on a seven-game winning streak, but it’s hardly been impressive with the Big Ten’s second-worst scoring offense, the least-efficient passing game, and close win after close win against a slew of mediocre teams. It took a fortunate pass interference call and a field goal that went off the upright to get by Illinois 10-7, and it took way too much work and effort to get by Indiana, Temple, and Purdue. But 8-1 is 8-1, and with a win, the Nittany Lions can clinch at least a tie for the Leaders title.

Nebraska has been flaky, looking great on a three-game winning streak, including a dominant win over a limp Michigan State, but struggling to get anything moving until it was too late in last week’s loss to the Wildcats. The Husker defense has been stunningly inconsistent, the offense is a two-man show between Taylor Martinez and Rex Burkhead, and there’s no passing game. Even so, with Michigan and Iowa to close things out, the Huskers control their own Big Ten title destiny with their first win in Happy Valley since a 21-7 win in 1980.

But the game will end, and Penn State will have to get back to dealing with the nightmare. For a few hours, though, it should be a great game.

At least it would be under normal circumstances.

Why Nebraska Might Win: Obviously, this is as distracted as an opponent can possibly be. The Penn State coaching staff has tried to prepare as normal, practice as usual, and get through the week like it would before any other big game, but that didn’t happen. It’s not like the Huskers are going to care. Head coach Bo Pelini publicly stated that he’s not that familiar with what’s going on – no one has more tunnel vision than a college football head coach – and Nebraska really, really needs this win after last week’s loss.

In terms of Xs and Os, Nebraska has had problems so far this year with mobile quarterbacks. Wisconsin’s Russell Wilson gave the Huskers fits; Minnesota’s MarQueis Gray ran for 67 yards; Ohio State’s Braxton Miller ran for 91; and last week, Northwestern’s Kain Colter ran for 57 yards and two scores and threw for 115 yards. Mobile quarterbacks aren’t going to be an issue this week, with the Penn State combination of Matt McGloin and Rob Bolden trying to find some consistency and some downfield production. Outside of a gaffe against NU’s Jeremy Ebert last week, the Husker secondary has been a rock, and it’s not going to get lit up against the horrible Penn State passing game. If Nebraska just has to focus on stopping one thing, it can.

Why Penn State Might Win: The Huskers can be run on. There have been some good moments this year for the Nebraska defensive front – most notably in the second half against Ohio State – but without star tackle Jared Crick, the line has been surprisingly soft and the back seven have had to clean up several major messes. Penn State has been able to run well with regularity thanks to a terrific season so far from the offensive front and from running back Silas Redd, who has a nice string of five 100-yard games in a row and should make it six against a defense that’s given up 200 yards or more in three of the five Big Ten games while allowing 12 scores. So far this year, Nebraska is 7-0 when allowing two rushing scores or fewer, and 0-2 when giving up more than two.

And then there’s the emotional factor. It’s Senior Day, which didn’t mean much last year in a 28-22 loss to Michigan State, but the Nittany Lions won their previous nine. This isn’t just the last game for the Penn State seniors; it's the first game without Joe Paterno. For good and for bad, after all the emotion and all the stress of this last week, watch out for a focused team that realizes this could be the last hurrah in so many ways. Penn State has always played up to the milestone moments for Paterno, and this will be one of them as the first game A.J. (After Joe). But here's the little secret that's been lost - Bradley has basically been like a head coach for the last few years. There won't be a drop-off in the coaching.

What To Watch Out For: Penn State defensive tackle Devon Still, who has eaten up everything in his path on the way to a certain All-Big Ten season. Big, strong, and quick, talent was never a problem, but staying healthy was a big issue. This year he has put it all together with 47 tackles with 15.5 tackles for loss and four sacks. Three of the sacks have come in the last four games as he’s now the Big Ten’s premier interior pass rusher. He has to collapse things from the inside and force Taylor Martinez to make things happen running wide.

Nebraska’s defense is anchored once again by tackling-machine Lavonte David, who might not be a national name, but he’s coming up with a second straight fantastic season with 88 tackles and two sacks. With the line struggling, especially without Crick, David has had more responsibility, and he’s handling it well with 11 tackles last week after making 13 against Michigan State. He’s not used as a pass rusher, and this week his job will be to take on Silas Redd again and again. At a place known for its linebackers, David should stand out with at least 15 stops.

What Will Happen: It’s going to be very, very weird. No matter how it’s going to be spun and no matter what kind of a bow is put on it, the game is going to feel strange with emotions running high, but the Penn State players will come through with a focused, solid effort knowing that in many ways, this might be the season. Paterno is still revered, and the players will come up with a great performance inspired by the last week.

CFN Prediction: Penn State 17 … Nebraska 13
- Click For Latest Line From ATS: Nebraska -3.5   O/U: 43

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