Comeback Falls Short as Penn State Falls to Nebraska
On an emotional afternoon, the Penn State Nittany Lions (8-2, 5-1 Big Ten) fell short of a passionate comeback, falling to the Nebraska Cornhuskers (8-2, 4-2 Big Ten) by a score of 17-14.
The game began with a prayer at midfield for victims of child abuse in the wake of the scandal that has rocked Penn State in recent weeks.
“It was a very special moment for a lot of people,” said Penn State interim head coach Tom Bradley.
The game itself had significant bowl implications: 12th-ranked Penn State would need just one win to clinch the Leaders Division with a victory over Nebraska. Nebraska, meanwhile, entered the game ranked 19th in the nation with a 7-2 record overall and 4-2 in Big Ten play. A slip-up at home last week to Northwestern dropped Nebraska from 10th in the rankings and hurt their conference championship hopes.
Nebraska would rely on their two best athletes to lead them to victory against the vaunted Nittany Lion defense. Star running back Rex Burkhead ran for 121 yards and what would end up being the game winning touchdown in the third quarter. Duel-threat quarterback Taylor Martinez threw for just 143 yards while completing 50 percent of his passes, but he ran for a tough 56 yards on the ground.
The real story of the game was defense. Nebraska’s 36th ranked defense allowed 375 yards of Penn State offense but held the team to 14 points. It was thus up to Penn State’s 3rd ranked defense to try to keep the team in the game.
“We can't give up,” said junior defensive tackle Jordan Hill. “We can't give in to anything. That's the only way we've been coached this whole season - to keep working and fight through adversity.”
Hill had five total tackles and a big fourth quarter fumble recovery to keep Penn State’s slim hopes alive. The man that forced the fumble was none other than midseason All-American defensive tackle Devon Still, who finished the game with six total tackles.
The first quarter of the game was scoreless, as the crowd of nearly 108,000 saw six combined punts and a missed Anthony Fera field goal for Penn State. It was not until the second quarter that Nebraska got on the board, with a 41-yard field goal by Brett Maher finishing off a 50 yard drive.
The Cornhuskers scored again after an exchange of punts with a dominating 12-play, 80-yard drive that ended in a two-yard rushing touchdown for Ameer Abdullah. The freshman running back only had two carries, but his two-yard touchdown push gave Nebraska a 10-0 lead with 0:44 left in the half. The game looked in hand after a 14-yard scamper by Burkhead on the option toss by Martinez halfway through the third quarter increased the lead to 17-0.
With the supportive crowd behind them, the Penn State offense began to move the ball. Penn State running back Silas Redd was knocked out for most of the second half with a sprained joint in his upper-body, so the carries were split between two seniors. Brandon Beachum ran for 36 yards on seven carries with the long rush of the game for Penn State going for 15 yards.
In a day filled with emotion and redemption for Stephfon Green, he stepped up when called upon and rushed for both of Penn State’s touchdowns in his final game at Beaver Stadium. He finished with 71 yards on 17 carries. Green credited his teammates with allowing him the chance to have an impact on the game.
“I am proud of these guys,” Green said. “Those are the best group of guys that you can come around and just stay united and family oriented.”
Ultimately, the comeback bid was not to be for Penn State. Silas Redd was stopped short on a critical 4th-and-one run, and the Nittany Lions would have less than a minute when they got the ball back following a turnover on downs by Nebraska. A desperate drive led by junior quarterback Matt McGloin fell short of field goal range, and the Cornhuskers held on for a crucial conference win.
Penn State travels to Ohio State this week to take on the Buckeyes in a game with Big Ten championship implications. Listen to ComRadio for complete coverage of the game, beginning with the Pregame Show at 2:30 p.m. and then with the live game broadcast at 3:30 p.m.
Jared Abbott is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism and psychology. To contact him, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.