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CFN Analysis - Nebraska 17, at Penn St 14

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Nov 12, 2011


The instant analysis and reaction to Nebraska at Penn State

CFN Analysis   

Nebraska at Penn State
 
 

By Pete Fiutak

- I wouldn’t have had a problem if Penn State had won, but I couldn’t have handled the schmaltz and the “inspired by Joe” angle had the Nittany Lions pulled that out in dramatic fashion.

- Well done, Penn State. Under the circumstances, that was as respectable as possible. From the candlelight vigil before, to the moment of silence, to the absence of tailgaters before the game, to anyone in baby blue, to the media finally getting reactions from the Penn State students and fans who love Penn State football but have a proper perspective, all things considered, this couldn’t have been handled better.

- Oh, by the way, Nebraska won the game.

- Give the Huskers some credit. Bo Pelini wouldn’t know the sky is blue during game week if he wasn’t told so, and he didn’t appear to care a lick about the controversy, but this was a tough situation to walk into.

- Taylor Martinez threw extremely well when he absolutely had to. He might have only hit half his passes, but the 144 yards made a big difference.

- Don’t assume that Penn State lost this game because of the absence of Joe Paterno. For all intents and purposes, it was business as usual with the way the game was coached. Nebraska was simply the better team.

- One difference without Paterno was the absence of Rob Bolden. Tom Bradley was letting Matt McGloin go the whole way.

- I get the Senior Day angle, but Stephfon Green shouldn’t have gotten more carries than Silas Redd. Bradley and the coaching staff took the ball out of its best players’ hands.



By Richard Cirminiello 

Too little, too late. It’s a theme that’s permeated State College throughout this past week of unprecedented tumult.

Penn State rallied impressively in the second half against Nebraska, but felt short in one of the most uniquely emotional settings for a college football game since 9/11. The reality from an Xs and Os perspective is that the circumstances may have been starkly different on this Saturday, but the Nittany Lions were very much the same team they’ve been for much of 2011; the defense is Big Ten Championship-caliber, but the offense certainly is not. And while that unbalanced mix can be overcome against the likes of Temple, Indiana, Purdue and Illinois, the Huskers wound up being too tall of an order.

The cold reality is that Matt McGloin should not be a starting quarterback for a wannabe division winner, and Penn State lacked the ability to stretch a quality Nebraska D that was able to keep its linebackers and safeties close to the line in order to slow down backs Silas Redd and Stephon Green. Somewhere on the long list of priorities for the next regime will be to mine a quality passer, something the Nits are going to need in order to provide a little cover for Redd.

It’s hard to imagine a scenario in which Penn State wins the Leaders Division, despite the fact that the team still holds a lead in the race. The Lions still have to travel to Columbus and Madison, where Ohio State and Wisconsin, respectively, are firmly in the hunt for a spot in the Dec. 3 league title game in Indianapolis. Penn State left it all on the field; it’s hard to imagine it having much in the tank in the final two weeks … especially on that feeble offense.

By Matt Zemek

-- Nebraska might not have had another gear in this game, but the Huskers, to steer the metaphorical train in another direction, enjoyed the benefits of precision handling. Small but real degrees of added quickness and versatility in the running game offered just enough of a change-of-pace dimension for Big Red in this contest.

-- Speaking of quickness, that's what Northwestern possessed. Penn State doesn't have it, at least not at quarterback. (This magnifies Northwestern's failures, not PSU's limitations.)

-- It's a great day to be a Wisconsin Badger.

-- Quietly but simply, everyone associated with staging this game did a great job. Nebraska's coaches and players displayed exemplary conduct, and the pregame program earned high marks for both planning and execution. No, the non-football aspects of this event should not be the focus here, but it's worth simply noting that this game was played and the world did not end.
By Terry Johnson

- Both teams met at the center of the field for a pregame prayer led Nebraska assistant Ron Brown.

- Give credit to Nebraska for winning today’s game. They faced a very emotional team that was determined to win this game for Joe Paterno.

- Even with the win today, the Cornhuskers face long odds to reach the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game. The Huskers trail Michigan State by one game, and the Spartans only remaining games are against Indiana and Northwestern. While these seem like easy Michigan State wins, stranger things have happened in conference play this season (more on that below).

- The game ball belongs to Nebraska RB Rex Burkhead. With Taylor Martinez struggling to hit open receivers, Burkhead put the Huskers on his back, and carried them to victory. Burkhead ran the ball 27 times for 125 yards and a touchdown. In addition, he took some snaps from under center, which seemed to confuse the Penn State defense and allowed the Cornhuskers to pick up some critical yardage, including their opening TD.

- Even though the Cornhusker defense surrendered 376 yards of total offense, they made the plays when they had to make them – especially at the end of the game. In the second to last drive, Penn State picked up 8 yards on first down. However, the Nittany Lions failed to get the first down, as the Huskers stopped them cold on three consecutive runs. On the following drive, the Nebraska pressure caused QB Matt McGloin to throw before he was ready which resulted in one clock-killing completion, and several incomplete passes.

- Tom Bradley showed the decision-making skills of a veteran head coach. Rather than alternate QB’s as the Lions had been doing, he stuck with McGloin throughout the contest. As a result, the offense had one of its more consistent performances this season.

- Despite the loss, Penn State still remains the frontrunner in the Leaders division. With Purdue defeating Ohio State in West Lafayette today, next week’s game with the Buckeyes becomes essentially meaningless, as the Nittany Lions only need to defeat Wisconsin to advance to Indianapolis.

By Phil Harrison
Phil Harrison
Follow me on Twitter @PhilHarrisonCFN

-First and foremost, what a touching moment at the beginning of the game as both sidelines joined in the middle of the field for prayer and respect to the victims of the tragic set of circumstances that have come to light. There are some moments that you have to see to be truly touched, and this was one of them. After a week of being angry and disappointed with humanity, this was moment that reminds you that there are still some good in people, sport or not.

- How weird must it have felt for Penn State fans to have a football game go on without Joe Paterno? It's almost unbelievable when you look back on it--a half-century, a half-century with those eyes, peering through those glasses, at that team, in that stadium. Then a football game broke out, and it didn’t feel that much different. The Nittany Lion community will get used to it as every other team has. Football is still football, and the most important thing involves the victims, and the game will go on.

Now for the less important football part of the game:

- Penn State’s offense has been anemic all year--especially in the Big Ten and it finally came back to bite it. The defense can only bail out the team so often, and you got the feeling that PSU was ripe for a loss at any point. Check.

- Will the real Nebraska please stand up? The Cornhuskers have looked very average against Wisconsin and Northwestern, while looking like the pre-season favorite of the Legends division against Michigan State, in the second half against Ohio State, and now against Penn State--at least defensively.

- You get the feeling that this won’t be the last defeat the Nittany Lions experience. PSU is in a tough stretch including this week. After the defeat at the hands of the ‘Huskers, Penn State must now go to Ohio State, and then host Wisconsin. It's entirely possible that it loses both games and finishes out of the mix in the race to get to Indy.

- Looking ahead, with the loss by OSU, it now looks like the Penn State vs. Wisconsin game is going to be for the right to go to Indy. Unless Wisconsin stumbles, win or lose by PSU next week, the game in Happy Valley in two weeks will be for a chance to play for a championship.

- For those wondering, It now appears as though Matt Mcgloin is still the QB going forward despite the coaching change. It seemed to be going that way anyway, but Tom Bradley went exclusively with the Junior, and it is apparent now that he is the guy going forward. What to do with Ralph Bolden?

- Road game at OSU up next for Penn State. How will things go for the first road game after the Paterno era?