Four Downs: Nebraska at Penn State

A crazy week in college football comes to an end with Nebraska holding on to beat Penn State 17-14 in State College. If you read my blog, you know the scandal affected me. I don’t know about everyone else, but I was just observing everything at the outset of the game. A nice moment by Huskers assistant coach Ron Brown in leading both teams in prayer before the game. It seemed like it took a few series before the players were into the game. It was easy to understand why the fans weren’t into the game for awhile either.

First Down: Taylor Martinez – Almost one year ago, the Huskers almost came apart on the road, against Texas A&M. The chatter made it seem like a majority of fans were ready to throw Taylor Martinez out of Lincoln. Now? The guy is in command. He played another great game in all aspects. If his receivers catch a few more balls, his numbers look real good. He’s showing what his teammates have been saying this season, he is the leader on offense. Who would’ve thought this a year ago, or even after the Wisconsin game? He’s playing great. The third quarter touchdown drive was a thing of beauty, especially the option pitch to Rex Burkhead for the touchdown. If he keeps this up, he’ll join a list of Husker players who were doubted early in their career, only to be regarded as legends once they finished.

Second Down: This game should’ve been over earlier – Penn State’s offense is awful, but Nebraska helped them out in the second half. In the third quarter, Penn State QB, Matt McGloin, got away with an underthrown pass, into double coverage, for a huge gain that the Huskers secondary lost track of. That big play led to the first Penn State touchdown. In the fourth quarter, the Huskers went to the well too often with Burkhead under center and Martinez in the backfield. Penn State blew up the play, and Burkhead fumbled it. (Or Burkhead apologists will blame Tyler Legate. Whatever. Anyway…) There was no need for that at that point in the game. Nebraska was moving the ball down the field and taking time off the clock. It gave Penn State another chance, and they converted for a touchdown to make it 17-14 with under six minutes to play. I can’t complain too much because Husker fans will take any win they can.

Third Down: Brett Maher gets a game ball – His kicking was the difference in the game. He made his field goal opportunity, while Penn State’s kicker missed his. More importantly, his punts pinned Penn State back on their side of the field. One of the key plays of the season? Maher’s 61 yard punt late in the fourth quarter, which pinned Penn State back as they drove for the tie or win. Dude is money.

Fourth Down: The axion goes, “Big time players make big time plays” – Lavonte David made the critical fourth down stop late in the game, especially when it seemed the Blackshirts were tiring. He had a solid game as usual. Alfonzo Dennard was shutting down receivers and showing why he is a potential first round pick in the NFL Draft. Burkhead, despite the fumble, had a solid game running the ball, and got better as the game progressed. Martinez made conversions on third down. Nebraska’s best players stepped up and won the game.

Looking Ahead: Nebraska can’t worry about what Michigan State does. All they can do is take care of business. And, who knows, it might be better for Nebraska to win out and not make the Big Ten Championship Game. Hear me out. Nebraska wins out and is 10-2. They still have a chance to be picked for a BCS Bowl Game because Husker fans travel well. Now, they need some help for that to happen, but it could happen. First things first, beat Michigan next week. It’s simple. If they contain QB Denard Robinson, they will win the game. If they don’t, they will lose the game. The Huskers two losses came against teams with mobile QB’s.

Postscript: Say a prayer for the victims, and their families, in this sexual abuse scandal at Penn State. The scars will be with them forever, but they can overcome it. It will be hard, and take time, but it can be done. I hope the Penn State community continues to rally around and support the victims and their families. I also hope the Penn State community can deal with the reality of the scandal, address it and learn from it so it doesn’t happen again, and get back to being a well-regarded university. It will take time, and whether they like it or not this scandal will always be linked with them. This past week, I saw one columnist link this scandal, and Joe Paterno, with what former Husker RB Lawrence Phillips did in assaulting a woman and Tom Osborne keeping him on the team. While that scandal is still mentioned from time to time, it doesn’t define Nebraska. I hope this sexual abuse scandal doesn’t come to define Penn State either, even though they’ll always be linked with it. I know a few Penn State grads, and they are good people that are proud of their university. They’ve been disgusted by their university the past week. I hope they can be proud of their university again.