Penn State Takes on No. 19 Nebraska Saturday
For the first time since 1949, Joe Paterno will not be the head coach for a Penn State Nittany Lion football game. Those are tough words to swallow for all Penn Staters, but for the players on the 2011 football team there still is a game to be played on Saturday against the number 19 ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers (7-2 3-2).
Penn State (8-1 5-0) needs just two wins in their next three games to win the Big Ten Leaders division and earn a trip to the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis. A win Saturday would not only put them one game closer from an unprecedented opportunity to play for the Rose Bowl, but it would signify much more considering the magnitude of the current situation the Nittany Lions are in.
Tom Bradley, formerly the defensive coordinator, will take over for Joe Paterno as interim head coach and addressed the media with his plan yesterday. Bradley made it clear that amidst the scandal that his players, especially the seniors, deserve to have their moment on Saturday.
“I think we’ve got to understand that this team has put in a lot of hard work,” said Bradley. “Saturday will be Senior Day for many of them. They deserve to have this day. That’s what they’ve worked for this entire year.”
Bradley’s team, led by senior captains Drew Astorino, Derek Moye, Devon Still and Quinn Barnham will have a tough task Saturday, not only to prepare their team mentally, but to go against a tough Nebraska Cornhusker team.
Offensively for Nebraska, the running game is where Bo Pelini and his team have found success all year. Led by quarterback Taylor Martinez and running back Rex Burkhead, the Huskers are 13th in the nation in rushing yards and 27th in points scored.
Burkhead and Martinez have combined for over 1600 yards and 22 touchdowns rushing this season, but the passing game has held the Huskers back all season and is a big reason why they have a two losses in the loss column. Martinez threw for zero touchdowns and three interceptions in the Huskers 48-17 loss to Wisconsin earlier this season and has struggled scoring points against ranked opponents.
However, this will play to the strength of the Nittany Lions defense, which has only allowed more than 100 yards rushing three times this whole season and has held its opponents to less than 20 points every game this season except for contests against Alabama and Northwestern.
Playing a consistent defensive game will be key for senior defensive tackle Devon Still and his defense, unlike two weeks ago against Illinois where Jason Ford and the Illini offense exploded in the second half after a slow first half start. Expect interim head coach Tom Bradley and co-coordinators Larry Johnson and Ron Vanderlinden to attack Martinez and Burkhead early and force Martinez to make mistakes in the air.
Defensively for Nebraska, stopping the run has been nearly impossible especially after the loss of defensive stand out Jared Crick who was lost for the season after a torn pectoral muscle injury.
Opponents have rushed for over 130 yards seven times this season against Nebraska, and it won’t get easier this weekend against Silas Redd and the Nittany Lion rushing attack. Redd, who has rushed for over 100 yards for the past five games, will need a similar performance to all of his Big Ten games this season if Penn State wants to keep up with Martinez and the Husker rushing attack.
Senior Derek Moye is healthy after an ankle injury suffered a few weeks ago sidelined him for most of the past three games and that is good news for quarterback Matt McGloin after Penn State receivers had a tough time hauling in passes against Illinois two weeks ago.
Saturday will be a match-up of strength versus strength when it comes to the Penn State defense and the Nebraska offense, but the advantage Silas Redd brings for the Lions offensively will be the storyline on the field at Beaver Stadium.
ComRadio will start its coverage with the ComRadio Tailgate show at 9:30 and the Pregame Show at 11, all the way up to the noon kickoff.
Mike Esse is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.