Penn State Football: Nebraska Cornhuskers 17, Penn State Nittany Lions 14
Penn State didn’t lose. Nebraska just scored more points.
The gritty Nittany Lions were slow to start and fast to finish.
That is to be expected. For an unimaginable worst part of a week, they have been reeling from a child abuse sex scandal that has consumed the University Park campus -- neigh, the whole Commonwealth, parts of the nation and about a million gigawigabytes of the Internet.
But on a last-second drive in Beaver Stadium on Saturday with less than a minute less, the Lions were spent.
How could they not be?
Their head coach retired, then was fired. In the same day.
The former coach who hung out on the weight room was charged with heinous crimes.
Their receivers coach and offensive show-runner on game day was put on leave. Perhaps permanently.
Their days and nights were filled by riots, candlelight vigils, satellite trucks and texts, Tweets and FB by the social media bucketful.
The game was Penn State’s first since the Jerry Sandusky scandal rocked the nation last weekend. Interim head coach Tom Bradley directed the Lions from the sidelines, having succeeded Joe Paterno, who was fired on Wednesday night.
Receivers coach Mike McQueary, who was placed on administrative leave on Friday by the new university president, Rod Erickson, was not at the game. And quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno, normally in the coaches box, was on the sidelines.
It's draining just writing, just reading about it.
Yet here the Nittany Lion offense was, having dug out of a 17-0 hole to finally have a chance to win the game. A small chance, but if the 1982 Nittany Lions could drive the length of the field to beat a Nebraska in a 1982 Beaver Stadium classic, maybe the 2011 Lions could as well.
With Nebraska ahead 17-14 with 49 seconds remaining in the game, quarterback Matt McGloin and the Penn State offense took over on their own 28.
All Penn State needed was a touchdown to win or a field goal to tie. All? It's not as far-fetched as it sounds.
Against Northwestern in 2010, McGloin took the Lions 91 yards downfield in 47 seconds for a touchdown. That sparked a five-TD rally that gave Paterno his 400th win.
And against Illinois on Oct. 29, 2011 -- Paterno's last game as head coach -- with three minutes to go on the fourth quarter, McGloin took the Lions 80 yards downfield in 124 seconds for the winning score.
The Scranton Gunslinger had done it before. The 107,903 loyal and loud Penn State fans hoped he could do it again.
It didn't quite go as planned, as McGloin took to the airways. Completion for a yard loss. Nebraska penalty. Incompletion. Incompletion. Completion.
A loss. But the completion of a game guttily played.
They Are...what the Penn State Nation needed. Honest effort under amazing pressure.
At the end of the incredibly emotion-filled day, the Nittany Lions walked off the field and through the south end zone to loud applause from the crowd and a chorus of “We are..Penn State.”
The records and the score don't reflect what the on-the-field and in-the-heart story. But here they are: with the loss, Penn State fell to 8-2 overall and 5-1 in the Big Ten, while No. 19 Nebraska jumped to 8-2 and 4-2.
The Nittany Lions are still atop the Leaders division in the Big Ten, with games next week at Ohio State and in two weeks at Wisconsin. If Penn State wins its next two games, it will go to the Big Ten's inaugural Big Ten Championship game in Indianapolis on Dec. 3.
McGloin completed 16 of 34 passes for 192 yards for Penn State. Stephfon Green ran 17 times for 71 yards, while Silas Redd -- playing with an ailing shoulder -- was 15 for 54.
For Nebraska, quarterback Taylor Martinez was 13 of 26 for 144 yards, and ran 18 times for 55 yards. Rex Burkhead carried 27 times for 126 yards.
BEFORE THE GAME
--- Penn State recognized its senior players, who were playing on their final game in Beaver Stadium:
The seniors are: safety Drew Astorino, offensive tackle Quinn Barham, tailback Brandon Beachum, defensive end Jack Crawford, receiver Andrew Goodman, tailback Stephfon Green, defensive end Eric Latimore, kicker Evan Lewis, cornerback D’Anton Lynn, tight end J.D. Mason, receiver Derek Moye, offensive tackle Chima Okoli, guard DeOn’tae Pannell, linebacker Ken Pollock, cornerback Chaz Powell, kick snapper Jon Rohrbaugh, receiver Ryan Scherer, defensive tackle Devon Still, linebacker Nate Stupar, fullback Joe Suhey, safety Nick Sukay, tight end Andrew Szczerba and guard Jonnie Troutman.
-- The Beaver Stadium crowd of 107,903 observed a minute of silence on behalf of child abuse victims everywhere.
-- And just before kickoff, at midfield Nebraska and Penn State players, coaches, team personnel, officials and former Penn State players knelt in prayer.
Nebraska led 10-0 at halftime. The Huskers scored on a 41-yard field goal by Brett Maher in the second quarter, then added a touchdown run of 2 yards by Ameer Abdullah with 39 seconds in the first half to increase their lead.
Penn State’s only scoring opportunity came on a missed 47-yard field goal by Anthony Fera in the first quarter.
Statistically, the two teams were evenly matched in the first half. Penn State’s offense gained 176 yards, while Nebraska’s had 167.
McGloin started at quarterback for PSU and played the entire first half, completing 78 of 17 passes for 88 yards. Redd, who entered the contest with five consecutive 100-yard games, carried eight times for 37 yards in the first half.
In the first half, Nebraska was led by Martinez, with nine rushes for 23 yards, and 9 of 17 passing for 101 yards. Burkhead led the Huskers in rushing, with 39 yards on eight carries.
Nebraska’s touchdown culminated a 12-play, 80-yard drive in the closing minutes of the first half. The Cornhuskers got the ball on their own 20 with 3:33 left in the second quarter. Then, using a mixture of seven runs and three complete passes, they methodically moved the ball downfield.
The Cornhuskers were aided by a pass interference call on Penn State’s Nick Sukay. The penalty came on a third and 9, and advanced the ball from the 14-yard line to the 2. The very next play Abdullah went in for the score.
It may be a new era of Penn State football, but by the end of the third quarter it was the same old Penn State offense: Struggling to score, as the Nittany Lions could only manage seven points in the first 45 minutes.
Penn State finally got on the board in the third quarter when McGloin got the hot hand and completed four of five passes to quickly move the Lions downfield. He twice connected with Justin Brown, for nine and five yards. He also completed a nine-yarder to Devon Smith. On the drive, Redd ran twice for five yards, while Green ran twice for nine yards.
The big play on the drive was a 40-yard toss from McGloin to his favorite target, Derek Moye. At the Nebraska 5-yard line, the 6-foot-5 Moye outjumped Nebraska’s Daimion Stafford and Andrew Green to grab a high toss from McGloin. Stafford and Green both jumped for the ball, colliding into each other to leave Moye free to make the catch.
After an incomplete pass to Moye in the southeast corner of the end zone – where McGloin has twice thrown interceptions in 2011 – Green sliced five yards for the score. After Fera’s PAT, Penn State trailed 17-7. Penn State’s drive covered 82 yards in nine plays, and took just 3:36.
Late in the fourth quarter, Penn State pulled to within 17-14 on a 51-yard drive set up by defensive tackles Devon Still and Jordan Hill. Still knocked the ball out of the hands of Nebraska back Rex Burkhead, and Still recovered at the Penn State 49.
The Penn State offense took over at its own 49-yard line. The Nittany Lions pounded the ball, reeling off six consecutive running plays. Stephfon Green carried three times for nine yards and Brandon Beachum carried three tmes for four yards.
The next two passes are what made the drive. On a third down and 8 at the Nebraska 38, McGloin fired a rifle to Brown across the middle for 16 yards.
Then, on the very next play, McGloin handed off to Beachum, who tossed the ball to Curtis Drake coming around on a reverse. Meantime, McGloin circled out of the backfield and drifted along the left sidelines. Drake, a former quarterback who has been hampered by a broken leg twice the past two years, lofted a floater to McGloin, who caught the ball and bulled his way for an extra three yards, for a gain of 16.
Green followed that up for a six-yard touchdown. Fera’s PAT pulled Penn State to within 17-14, with 5:42 to play. The drive covered 51 yards n nine plays, and lasted just 3:53.
Nebraska got the ball back at its own 22, but the Nittany Lion defense held the Huskers to just six yards in three plays. Nebraska’s Brett Maher punted a 61-yarder that pinned Penn State back at its win 11-yard line, with just 3:52 left in the game.
Penn State’s offense went 26 yards in five plays, to set up a fourth and 1 at its own 37. One minute and 55 seconds remained on the clock and Penn State called timeout.
With the game on the line, McGloin handed off the ball to Redd. Redd ran off-tackle left. There wasn’t a hole and Redd was stopped short.
A measurement and a review confirmed it: Penn State came up a few inches short.
The Nittany Lion defense held the Husker offense, stopping them on a fourth and 2. Penn State's offense took over at its 28, but it couldn't move the ball as the clock ticked down.
But, at least for one day, the Nittany Lions were hardly down and out.