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Penn State Football: 5 Keys To Beating Nebraska

by on November 23, 2013 12:20 PM

Penn State will take the field one final time at Beaver Stadium for the 2013 season against a talented Nebraska squad. A victory ensures a winning season and sends Penn State's seniors out on a high note in the final home game of their careers. 

But winning won't be easy in the cold and wet weather that's expected to descend on Happy Valley by Saturday afternoon, and with one of the nation's top running attacks in town, it should be a physical battle for a full 60 minutes.

So how do the Nittany Lions knock off a team that has won five of its last seven games? Here are five keys to consider.

Ball Security: Penn State has the benefit of having two talented running backs in Zach Zwinak and Bill Belton. But both of them have been prone to poorly-timed fumbles. Not that there is such a thing as a well-timed fumble, but Belton and Zwinak have both coughed the ball up at seemingly the worst possible moments. If they can keep a hold of the pigskin for a full 60 minutes the Nittany Lions can avoid giving Nebraska the ball and momentum at the same time. Quarterback Christian Hackenberg has been pretty smart with his passes, really limiting his turnovers. If he can continue that give Penn State a shot at a victory. Winning the turnover battle is always key to winning the game and it's especially true this weekend.

Be Physical: Nebraska is a Big Ten team to the core, and that means physical play on the offensive and defensive lines. Both lines for Penn State have played well the past few weeks, even great against Purdue, but getting down and dirty in the trenches will be key against Nebraska. If Penn State can establish a defensive line presence and move the offensive line forward, it will not only slow down Nebraska's offense but open the door for Penn State's running game.

Contain: Ameer Abdullah has been a big part of Nebraska's success over the past few weeks and the running back has been one of the more overlooked talents in the conference. Having carried the ball 206 times for 1,336 yards, Abdullah has broken the mold of a physical Big Ten back, becoming one of the conference's big playmakers. If Penn State's defense can contain Abdullah and tackle well it will be key to winning on Saturday.

Welcome To Your New Job: Quarterback Tommy Armstrong has stepped in for Nebraska while former starter Taylor Martinez recovers from injury. Armstrong went 9-of-21 against Michigan State last week and has struggled for most of the time he has been under center. Armstrong isn't bad, as he's capable of making a big throw, but if Penn State can rattle him early and contain Abdullah in the process that'll be a good sign for John Butler's defense.

Start Strong: Starting strong is never not the plan, but Penn State doesn't want to start this game with a poor performance on either side of the ball. This game is really the first of two final exams to end the year. The Nittany Lions won't want to mess up the opening questions on the exam with a poor first quarter performance. Nebraska is battling injuries and bouts of inconstant play, but even the Cornhuskers can take advantage of the Nittany Lions if Penn State starts slow.

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Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for StateCollege.com. He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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