Game Day: Nebraska vs. Penn State

Down but not out

When Nebraska receiver Quincy Enunwa gathered fellow seniors Tuesday to discuss a week of preparation for Saturday's tilt at Penn State, he didn't mince words: Don't simmer in disappointment. Shoddy play in Happy Valley in front of a Big Ten Network audience could make a season full of injuries and misfires even harder to stomach. "It's about pride," Enunwa said. "If you don't play for pride, you shouldn't be playing at all. At this point in the season, we're not going to make it to the championship game, so you have to play for pride."

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2-Minute Drill by Rich Kaipust

Nebraska rush offense vs. Penn State rush defense

Penn State was considered as strong up front as any Big Ten team starting the season, but the Nittany Lions are only in the middle of the pack in rushing defense (144 yards per game, 3.9 per carry). Nebraska hasn’t topped 200 yards the past four games but continues to get reliable production from I-back Ameer Abdullah, who hurt PSU a year ago. Edge: NU

Nebraska pass offense vs. Penn State pass defense

Nebraska is completing just 52.8 percent of its throws in Big Ten play and there have been timing and communication issues of late (some costly). Tommy Armstrong has as many interceptions as touchdown passes (seven of each), and NU will protect him with a pieced-together line. PSU wins here if it can put the Huskers in obvious passing downs. Edge: PSU

Penn State rush offense vs. Nebraska rush defense

NU seems to be improving, but the fact remains that the Huskers aren’t far removed from Minnesota and Northwestern hanging a combined 516 yards and six TDs on their run defense over back-to-back Saturdays. PSU is more steady than flashy with Bill Belton and Zach Zwinak, but will commit to it (40-plus attempts per game). Edge: NU

Penn State pass offense vs. Nebraska pass defense

True freshman Christian Hackenberg is getting more comfortable in Bill O’Brien’s offense, and it doesn’t hurt to have the best receiver in the Big Ten in Allen Robinson. Nebraska has turned up its pass rush in recent weeks, led by defensive end Randy Gregory, but has just one interception in the past four games after getting 11 in the first six. Edge: PSU

Special teams

Nebraska can’t afford any repeat of last week, which included a fumbled return, a punt being downed on its 1-yard line and Michigan State executing a fake field goal. NU also has gone backward with its net punting average, from No. 16 before the Minnesota game to No. 46 now. Neither team is very explosive in its return game. Edge: PSU

Intangibles

Penn State has the fewest penalty yards in the Big Ten, but like NU is on the negative side in turnover margin. The Lions, though, are going for a winning record and should be charged up on Senior Day. NU needs to summon the right response after being eliminated from the Legends Division race last week. Edge: PSU

Key matchup: Allen Robinson vs. Nebraska's cornerbacks

Few teams have slowed down Allen Robinson, the Nittany Lions’ junior receiver who leads the Big Ten in catches (81) and receiving yards (1,204). Nebraska can choose to challenge him with Stanley Jean-Baptiste or mix in Ciante Evans and Josh Mitchell — but the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Jean-Baptiste is the one who can match Robinson’s size (6-3, 210).

Nebraska wins if ...

... It takes care of the football and does the potential damage it can do offensively.

Penn State wins if ...

... It rides the emotional wave available to it and puts together a balanced offensive game.

Our take

Penn State hasn’t shown up offensively a couple of times and can be had defensively. All that said, just enough other things might be going its way. With a lot of the above categories pretty close, some of it simply could come down to which freshman quarterback plays better, and Hackenberg will have 100,000-plus fans behind him.

Our prediction: Penn State 28, Nebraska 27

Live updates

 

Videos

Extras

Printable rosters

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Check out a PDF of the game notes for the Nebraska-Penn State game provided by the Huskers athletic department. Click here »

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Listen: BRT Podcast

In this week’s edition of “The Big Red Today Podcast,” Jon Nyatawa and Sam McKewon discuss those problems before breaking down Saturday’s matchup with Penn State. They also talk about Ameer Abdullah’s impressive season, the banged-up offensive line, the improving linebackers and NU’s blitz schemes. Click here »

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Big Ten coverage

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Big Red Today coverage

Shatel: Bullies from the Big 12 now singing a different tune about the Big Ten

You see it on their faces, as Nebraska football players leave the practice field and head to the whirlpool portion of their day.

Ouch.

You hear it in the bars ...

Barfknecht: Hot seat is awfully warm for a handful of coaches

Name tags will be required at next summer’s Big Ten football media days if all the head coaches supposedly under threat of firing actually are let go.

Could there ...

Lost in the maze: NU and Iowa meet again without title implications

LINCOLN — The game will end and the initial scene won’t surprise, as one team likely sprints toward a trophy and the other exits bowed and dejected.

But the thing ...

Former Husker Dominic Raiola fined $10,000 for unnecessary roughness

NEW YORK — Detroit Lions center Dominic Raiola has been fined $10,000 by the NFL for unnecessary roughness for striking an opponent at New England on Sunday.

The play was ...

The Big Ten Roundup with Lee Barfknecht: Replay

Replay Wednesday's "Big Ten Roundup" chat with World-Herald staff writer Lee Barfknecht to get his take on news from around the conference.

Also, check out our Big Ten page ...

Big Red Breakfast: Ron Brown says Ameer Abdullah showed character with injury

For all that Ameer Abdullah had done this season — and through his Nebraska football career — Husker assistant coach Ron Brown said Wednesday that some of his truest character actually came ...

Husker center Ryne Reeves experienced despite being first-time starter

LINCOLN — Ryne Reeves didn’t need to take a deep breath or change his focus, because the Nebraska backup center had played plenty of snaps over the previous 10 football ...

From ’Canes to plains, Husker transfer Paul Kelly’s career anything but a snap

LINCOLN — Senior day at Nebraska. A small, notable class runs onto the field before the Minnesota game. Names Husker fans won’t soon — if ever — forget. Ameer Abdullah. Kenny Bell ...

Iowa preview: Hawkeyes ‘kind of do what they do’

By the numbers

7-4: Overall record (4-3 in the Big Ten)

5.53: Offensive yards per play (T-67th)

5.11: Defensive yards per play (T-31st)

Minus-3: Turnover margin (T-87th)

29 ...

Notes: Status still uncertain for Huskers Kenny Bell, Randy Gregory

LINCOLN — Coach Bo Pelini is still unsure if two key contributors will be healthy enough to suit up for Nebraska’s game Friday against Iowa.

Pelini labeled receiver Kenny Bell ...

Position change, Outland finalist help Nebraska product Drew Ott drive Iowa’s D-line

LINCOLN — The launching point for Drew Ott’s successful junior season goes back to a meeting last winter with Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz.

Ott requested a move on the Hawkeyes ...

Husker Talk Live: Replay

Replay Tuesday's "Husker Talk Live" chat with staff writer Sam McKewon to track a discussion of all the latest Husker headlines.

Live Blog Husker Talk Live: Noon

McKewon: Fresh sites can keep bowls from going stale

LINCOLN — I promise I’ll try to make sense of how the Big Ten now plans to select teams for its bowl games. I doubt I’ll do nearly as ...

De'Mornay Pierson-El working overtime to make Huskers better

LINCOLN — While most players on Nebraska’s offense found their place in stretching lines at the start of Tuesday’s practice, freshman De’Mornay Pierson-El stood hip-to-hip with his position ...

Barfknecht: Wisconsin-Minnesota game finally for more than Paul Bunyan's Axe

The last time Wisconsin and Minnesota faced off in a football game with as much meaning as this Saturday’s would have been, um ... well ... a really, really long time ...

Big Ten notes: Michigan State turns to receiver for help at cornerback

Michigan State senior Tony Lippett, a strong candidate for first-team All-Big Ten as a wide receiver, has doubled his workload.

On Saturday, he is set to become MSU’s first ...

Husker notes: Still improving, Randy Gregory faces decision

LINCOLN — The statistics don’t necessarily show it, but coach Bo Pelini said he thinks Randy Gregory has given NFL scouts plenty of worthy game film to salivate over.

It ...

Video: Nebraska Monday press conference

Watch video of Nebraska coach Bo Pelini and select Husker players at the team's weekly press conference in advance of this week's Nebraska-Iowa game. Also watch NU volleyball ...

Lunch with Tom: Replay

Hungry for some sports chat? Replay the “Lunch with Tom” chat to get World-Herald columnist Tom Shatel's thoughts on Nebraska’s loss to Minnesota, the upcoming Iowa game and ...

NU’s Pelini deflects questions on his job status, says focus is on Hawkeyes

LINCOLN — Bo Pelini shut down the question like a cornerback would a wideout.

“Could we talk about Iowa, please?” Nebraska’s coach said early in Monday’s press conference, thwarting ...

Abdullah says good will come from injury

LINCOLN — Ameer Abdullah had done so many special things, and the Nebraska I-back was on his way to doing more.

Seeing that pursuit get derailed, though, has been only a ...

Q&A with Husker lineman Jake Cotton

The senior offensive lineman played his final home game Saturday and now prepares for his final regular-season game Friday at Iowa. It will be the 23rd career start at left ...

Nyatawa: 17 scholarships, little depth on Husker line

LINCOLN — It seems illogical to raise depth concerns about an offensive line unit that accounts for 17 scholarships, but Nebraska’s season-long commitment to a now-slumping starting group suggests there ...

Notes: Pelini uncertain whether Bell will play against Hawkeyes

LINCOLN — Nebraska could be without its record-setting receiver in the season’s final regular season game.

Senior Kenny Bell, the program’s career catches leader, suffered an apparent concussion on ...

Shatel: First Osborne award is a no-brainer

What do you give a man who’s done it all, won it all and been awarded every honor a coach can receive?

His own award.

The first annual Tom ...

Huskers drop out of both college football polls

Nebraska's 28-24 loss to Minnesota Saturday helped knock the team off the AP and Coaches top 25 polls in week 14.

Last week the Huskers sat at No. 21 ...

Barfknecht's Big Ten rankings, Nov. 24

World-Herald staff writer Lee Barfknecht ranks the Big Ten football teams as published in The World-Herald on Nov. 24.

* * *

1. Ohio State (10-1, 7-0)

Last week: beat Indiana 42-27. This ...

Husker QB Armstrong makes positive strides

LINCOLN — Nebraska’s starting quarterback heard the same message from almost everyone last week as he worked to rebound from back-to-back poor performances.

Coach Bo Pelini pulled him aside. Offensive ...

McKewon: NU will prove Griese right 
if it can’t stop power game

LINCOLN — Watching the game again. In the final seconds of Nebraska’s 28-24 loss to Minnesota, ESPN analyst and former Michigan quarterback Brian Griese said the following about a Friday ...

Barfknecht: Is Husker sellout streak the next cornerstone to tumble?

The best news about Nebraska football after the weekend is there are no more home games.

Imagine if the Huskers hosted Penn State this weekend, and the tired Nittany Lions ...