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."

READ MORE »

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).

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

Looking for a handy reference guide that you can take to the game? Check out our two-page printable roster, sorted by jersey number and including height, weight, year in school, hometown and high school information. Click here »

Game notes

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

On social media

Check out the Big Red Today page on Facebook to discuss the latest news with the top Husker fans, and follow us on Twitter to get instant updates and analysis whenever news breaks.

BRT app

iPhone and Android users, get your Husker updates on the go by downloading our free Big Red Today app from the App Store and the Google Play store. Omaha.com/BRTapp and Omaha.com/android

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 »

Recruiting updates

Visit the Big Red Today recruiting page to find the latest updates on potential future Huskers, including player cards for those athletes already committed. Click here »

Email alerts

Sign up for the Big Red Today email newsletter to get the Husker news, analysis, daily headlines and more delivered to your inbox. Click here »

Big Ten coverage

Look for additional updates on our Big Ten page to get the best coverage of the conference from both The World-Herald and some of the best writers from across the country. Click here »

Big Red Today coverage

NU offensive lineman Tanner Farmer is convinced wrestling has helped him earn a starting job in football

Tanner Farmer’s path to a starting guard spot on the Nebraska football team included a detour through the Husker wrestling room.

Recruiting: Top Nebraska quarterback target Colson Yankoff commits to Washington

Huskers turn to a highly-rated California QB prospect, Tanner McKee, with Colson Yankoff off the board.

Six Huskers make up 2017 Nebraska Athletics Hall of Fame class

A group of six Huskers make up the 2017 Nebraska Athletics Hall of Fame class, which was released Wednesday. The members of the 2017 class are: Bob Brown, Karen (Dahlgren) Schonewise, Denise Day, Rich Glover, Dave Hoppen and Scott Johnson.

Recruiting: Can Nebraska match the spring recruiting run that boosted the 2017 class?

Around this time last year, the Huskers started a stretch that would see six recruits commit in a six-week span. Will this spring be just as big for Nebraska?

Pick Six Podcast: Creighton's NCAA tournament disappointment, Final Four picks, Nebraska's lines, outside linebackers, quarterback battle

World-Herald staff writers Sam McKewon and Jon Nyatawa tackle top local topics and the hottest headlines from across the country in the March 21 edition of "The Pick Six Podcast."

Meet in the middle: Husker linebackers are from all over, but winning is their universal language

Mohamed Barry already knew three languages before he started speaking English, so right up front the Nebraska sophomore will admit he might have a different worldview than some of his fellow linebackers.

'Where I Come From': Husker broadcaster Kent Pavelka on 1990s Huskers, favorite play calls, tumultuous career

In the fourth episode of "Where I Come From" — a new podcast from The World-Herald — host Dirk Chatelain sits down for an in-depth interview with longtime Husker sports broadcaster Kent Pavelka.

Former Notre Dame assistant Scott Booker joins Nebraska staff as special teams consultant

According to a report, Nebraska has hired Notre Dame’s former special teams coordinator and tight ends coach to work as an analyst in NU’s personnel office.

Recruiting: A closer look at a 2018 RB battle NU can — and needs to — win

Nebraska's 2018 class — that already has three commits in it — should grow bigger after the April 15 spring game, which is shaping up as a big unofficial visit weekend.

McKewon: If running back Mikale Wilbon leaps on, he’ll have Huskers’ faith

Nebraska junior running back Mikale Wilbon appears to be in mid-leap this spring. Good news for the Huskers — even better news for Wilbon, who might be NU’s best pure runner.

Putting Mustang motor in Lincoln: Husker signee, Oklahoma D-lineman Deontre Thomas blends speed, strength with drive to excel

Thomas found what he was looking for while attending Nebraska’s spring game last year. The facilities, the crowd, the academic support. All of it — headlined by a strong bond with NU defensive line coach John Parrella — was enough…

Roots of Husker coordinator Bob Diaco's 3-4 defense trace back to longtime coach Al Groh

When Al Groh gets a request from an inquiring mind, he’s happy to share what he knows. And when it comes to the 3-4 defense, Groh knows a lot. Of most interest to Nebraska fans, Groh is the guy who…

Husker junior Bryan Reimers impresses coaches in practice as he looks to join mix of top wide receivers

His five receptions as a sophomore last season rank third among returning players at his position and suddenly transform the Lincoln East graduate into one of the voices of experience in spring workouts.

Husker notes: Defense gets better of offense at end of practice; spring break for NU; two leaders at tight end

Nebraska finished the first half of spring practice Thursday with a lengthy workout that culminated in a long, live red zone session where the top offenses worked against the top defenses.

Ready to multi-task from outside: Huskers plan to put linebacker Marcus Newby’s varied skills to good use

There was a reason the Nebraska coaching staff wasn’t immediately sure what it would do with Marcus Newby, and it was because defensive coordinator Bob Diaco and assistant coach Trent Bray thought Newby could do a lot of things.

Junior Aaron Williams, NU's 'quarterback on defense', stands out to new safeties coach Bob Elliott

New Nebraska safeties coach Bob Elliott just talked to his wife about it the other day — they’ve moved 18 times to 12 locations in his football coaching career. That’s a lot of coaching jobs and defensive backs Elliott has…

New England Patriots sign former Husker Rex Burkhead

The New England Patriots announced Tuesday they had signed the former Nebraska I-back as an unrestricted free agent. Terms of the contract were not released.

Recruiting: Defensive backs, wide receivers the focus of Nebraska's recent scholarship offers

Defensive back and wide receiver continue to be positions of heavy focus for Nebraska in this recruiting cycle. Those two positions accounted for nearly all of the offers extended by Husker coaches over the last week.

Recruiting: New 2018 quarterback on Nebraska's radar

It appears another quarterback is now on Nebraska's radar for the 2018 recruiting class. Chandler (Ariz.) Hamilton senior-to-be Tyler Shough is visiting Nebraska today, according to 247Sports.

Notes: Diaco, Bray work together; Coaching punters ‘so fun’ and more

Trent Bray was the Huskers’ linebackers coach the last two seasons, but an adjustment came along with the transition to the 3-4 scheme — and both Diaco and Bray now work with the position.

Husker pro day notes: Something to prove for Newby; ‘A call to the bullpen’ and more

Terrell Newby was disappointed to not get an NFL combine invitation, so the I-back had poured his preparation into Nebraska’s pro day on Tuesday.

Former Huskers Brandon Reilly and Alonzo Moore hope to rise after strong pro day

Brandon Reilly put it on paper Tuesday. Although testing results varied among timers and were not released as official, the former Nebraska receiver and agent Chris Ellison were hearing that Reilly’s 40-yard dash time was as low as the 4.42…

Wide receiver Stanley Morgan is willing, able to carry heavy load for Huskers

Stanley Morgan donned his full football uniform last week for the first time in months. What he felt was progress. “It’s just learning how to breathe in these pads again,” the wide receiver said with a grin. “They’re a little…

Ex-Husker running back Terrell Newby, not invited to NFL combine, confident training will pay off at pro day

Terrell Newby didn’t obsess over how running backs were testing at the NFL combine, but he naturally kept an eye on what some of his competition was doing in Indianapolis.

McKewon: Early returns show tight race at QB; Husker passing game must spring forward

The Huskers have to get their pass game in shape. If it struggles as badly as it did for much of 2016, Bob Diaco’s defense may have to pitch a few shutouts and score its own touchdowns.

It’s special teams coaching by committee for Huskers; even Bob Diaco is involved, tutoring punters

Nebraska is spreading out its coaching duties on special teams as it moves on without Bruce Read, and first-year defensive coordinator Bob Diaco is even part of the mix.

Zac Taylor’s take: QB needs toughness; former Husker standout says intangibles also factor in

In a quarterback race, Taylor said, little things matter. Arm strength is good. Athleticism is too. But toughness counts.

Lincoln Southwest grad left Wayne State to try D-I; now he’s contending for Huskers' top tight end job

Tyler Hoppes never saw the move as a gamble, even though he played as a true freshman at Wayne State and was setting the stage for a successful career as a tight end with the NCAA Division II Wildcats.

Notes: Huskers still waiting for a lead back to emerge; Wideouts catching on and more

No one has yet established himself as Nebraska’s leader at running back. And the latest workout was disappointing for the entire position group from a focus standpoint.

Since picking Nebraska, quarterback Patrick O’Brien has embraced competition from Tanner Lee

Patrick O’Brien had been on the Nebraska campus for only a few weeks when he met Tanner Lee, and before long O’Brien learned that Lee intended to become a Husker.