Five Things We Learned: Nebraska
No. 10 Penn State improved to 9-2 on the season with a 56-44 win over Nebraska in a game that was never really in doubt, but did not look pretty in the second half, especially on defense. With that being said, it was a great send off for the final home game of a recruiting class that has represented the biggest building block in Penn State’s return to college football relevancy. Here are five things we learned on Saturday:
1. When it wants to, Penn State’s offense can click on all cylinders with ease
The Nittany Lions were able to find the end zone on all but two drives in the first half. A large part of the 609 yards Penn State churned out were gained by seniors/other departing members of the team. Mike Gesicki and DaeSean Hamilton each had over 40 yards receiving, with Gesicki also accounting for two touchdowns. And while not a senior, likely NFL-draft bound running back Saquon Barkley had 224 yards from scrimmage to go with three touchdowns on the ground.
2. The defense...had a bit of an effort problem in the second half
Was the score 56-24 when head coach James Franklin pulled most of the starters? Yes. Is that an excuse for the second and third-string players to allow three garbage-time touchdowns and make Saturday look like more of a game than it was? Absolutely not. Even though the Nittany Lions certainly had the game in the bag, the considerable lack of effort by the backups on Penn State’s depth chart was noticeable. It didn’t matter that much with regard to the final outcome of the game, but there is no reason to allow the Cornhuskers to score 20 points like that. The backups definitely did their job in aggravating gamblers as well, who saw Penn State go from easily covering a 27.5 point spread to only winning by a 12-point margin.
3. As bad as Nebraska has been this year, their passing game is decent
While it has been an abject year for the 4-7 Cornhuskers (3-5 in conference play), they can look at the performance of Tanner Lee as a bright spot yesterday. Lee completed 26 passes for 399 yards and three touchdowns. He made dynamic receiving threats out of Stanley Morgan Jr., who had seven catches for 185 yards and a touchdown, and JD Spielman, who had six catches for 96 yards. Nebraska definitely has some pieces offensively but their situation as a team right now is a puzzle. Speaking of which…
4. Nebraska has a long road in returning to relevancy
Isn’t it weird to think this team was ranked as high as No. 7 in the country a little over a year ago? They are a vast departure from a team that was knocking on the door of the College Football Playoff for a time last season. Mike Riley is essentially a lame-duck, because it is clear he is not the guy for the Cornhuskers. People talk about the Tom Osborne era of Nebraska football, but even the Bo Pelini era saw Nebraska stay in the rankings and go at least 8-4 every year. Cornhusker Nation represents a completely demoralized fan base at the moment.
5. Penn State will really miss this departing class of seniors.
It sounds cliche, but Penn State will really miss this departing class of seniors. DaeSean Hamilton, Mike Gesicki, Jason Cabinda, Marcus Allen, Grant Haley, Brandon Smith. Just a few of the Nittany Lions that have had a major impact on the program in the last few years. James Franklin brought a few recruits from Vanderbilt in his first year, but no one expected Franklin’s first recruiting class to turn out the way it did. This is a class that will remembered for a long time in Happy Valley for contributing in so many ways both on and off the field. They were likable players who brought a personality change to a much-despised program prior to their arrival. The impact they have had is already noted in the recruits that will come to Penn State after this class graduates.
Zach Kaplan is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact Zach, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Contributors
Senior / Broadcast Journalism
Zach Kaplan is a senior broadcast journalism major with a double minor in history and sociology. Beyond his work with the Centre County Report, Zach is involved with CommRadio as a sports director and on-air personality, as well as a broadcaster for BTN Student U productions on-campus. He also works with 46Live both on-air and as a producer to provide live coverage of Penn State’s annual Dance Marathon.
Outside of his on-air work, Zach writes for Penn State Athletics covering men’s hockey and lacrosse and has held summer internships with Israel Sports Radio, the Cape Cod Baseball League, and the Coastal Plain League.