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 Red Today coverage

The Roundup with Lee Barfknecht: Noon

Join World-Herald staff writer Lee Barfknecht at noon Wednesday for the “Big Ten Roundup” chat to get answers to your questions about the latest conference headlines.

Live Blog The Roundup ...

Husker Talk Live: Replay

Replay Tuesday's “Husker Talk Live” chat with World-Herald staff writer Sam McKewon to track the discussion of the latest Husker headlines.

Live Blog Husker Talk Live: Noon

Big Ten notes: Wisconsin coach sees progress from QB Joel Stave

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Husker notes: Newcomer Joe Keels says things finally starting to click

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A 6-foot-3, 250-pound four-star signee from Highland (Kansas) Community College, Keels ...

Barfknecht: Hawkeyes' offensive problems start with the play-caller

Iowa football coaches, players and fans seem puzzled by the struggles through three games to move the ball, particularly on the ground.

The Hawkeyes have eight returning offensive starters. Among ...

Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah, Miami’s Duke Johnson focus 
on beating defenses, not each other

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But just when the swarming tacklers seem ...

Highlights: Bo Pelini, Huskers press conference

Watch Monday's press conference with Nebraska volleyball coach John Cook, football coach Bo Pelini and Husker football players.

Bo Pelini

Volleyball coach John Cook

Ameer Abdullah

Tommy Armstrong

Corey ...

Lunch with Tom: Replay

Hungry for some sports chat? Replay Monday's “Lunch with Tom’’ featuring columnist Tom Shatel.

Live Blog Lunch with Tom: 10 a.m.

Q&A with Husker quarterback Ryker Fyfe

The backup quarterback notched his first career touchdown pass at Fresno State, connecting with Christian Bailey on a 10-yard throw in the fourth quarter. The sophomore from Grand Island has ...

Nyatawa: Extra attention to special teams paying off

LINCOLN — Nebraska’s dramatic improvement in the punt return game goes well beyond the elusive and instinctive freshman fielding the football.

That is an observation not meant to discount the ...

Nebraska secondary rushes to 
pass challenge

LINCOLN — The passes kept coming Saturday night, and Josh Mitchell and Daniel Davie kept working.

Neither cared for it to stop, either.

The Nebraska starting cornerbacks spend an awful lot ...

Notes: Huskers catching up on sleep since end of Fresno State victory

In the moments after a 55-19 win over Fresno State, Nebraska players planned for an all-night chat fest on the charter flight home from Lincoln. Forget the consequences!

Yeah, that ...

Husker QB Tommy Armstrong is a runner on the rise

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Shatel: Huskers charge up neat promotion for Ameer Abdullah

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Huskers return to AP Top 25

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The Huskers came in at No. 24 in the AP poll this ...

Huskers roll past Fresno State

FRESNO, Calif. — In the unyielding heat of the night, a sweat-drenched, sellout crowd fanned themselves with game programs, wrappers, hats and anything else they could find discarded in the rows ...

Barfknecht: Players try to blot out Big Ten’s mediocrity

FORT WORTH, Texas — In 2016, the Big Ten will increase the number of conference games for each school from eight to nine.

Some coaches and athletic directors already have suggested ...

Barfknecht's Big Ten rankings, Sept. 15

World-Herald Big Ten beat writer Lee Barfknecht ranks the conference after the third week of college football action.

* * *

1. Michigan State (1-1)

Last week: Idle. This week: Eastern Michigan, 11 ...

McKewon: Huskers must flush Fresno, keep focus on Miami

IN THE AIR OVER DEATH VALLEY, Calif. — We’re at 32,000 feet, a 22-month-old is howling in the cabin like Bo Pelini’s cat before a scratch fight, the ...

Husker Talk Live: Game Day replay

Log on at 8 p.m. for the Husker game day chat to track live updates before and throughout Nebraska's 9:30 p.m. showdown with Fresno State.

Want ...

Huskers set to see smaller crowd in Fresno

The limitations of Bulldog Stadium will result in Nebraska playing in front of one of the smaller crowds on Saturday night that it has seen in the last 15 years ...

Tracking the Husker offense, defense

World-Herald staff writer Rich Kaipust takes a look at Nebraska's effort on both sides of the ball during the Huskers' 55-19 win over Fresno State.

* * *

TRACKING THE OFFENSE

The ...

Barfknecht: Gophers, Big Ten still don’t measure up

FORT WORTH, Texas — Minnesota coach Jerry Kill wanted little to do with Saturday’s football game at TCU long before it was played.

He wanted even less of it as ...

Chatelain: On hot night in Fresno, the Huskers make some needed strides

Turnovers lost. Punt returns.

Who, even inside the Osborne Complex, could’ve foreseen this kind of improvement?

In 2013, the Huskers were 112th in turnovers lost: 29 giveaways. Only 10 ...

Nebraska-Fresno State: Five things we learned, don't know

Five things we learned and five things we still don’t know coming out of Saturday's Nebraska-Fresno State football game.

* * *

Five things we learned

1. Nebraska’s found a ...

From the sidelines: Husker skill players follow Ameer’s orders to start fast against Fresno State

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The final tweet by Nebraska’s senior I-back gave a hint to his mindset ...

Shatel: On trip to Twilight Zone, Huskers sap the drama, create feel-good ending

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The Fresno State trip is over, and Nebraska not only survived, but was ...

Notes: Walk-on Lane Hovey steps up; Kalu shines in start; Gregory sees 'dirty' play

FRESNO, Calif. — Nebraska’s health issues in its receiving corps resulted in an unlikely contributor Saturday.

Sophomore walk-on Lane Hovey caught a career-high three passes for 48 yards in the ...

Bolstered by Gregory's return, Husker defensive line has succesful 'hunt' at Fresno

FRESNO, Calif. — Fresno State started Saturday night’s game with five receivers, nobody left in the backfield to help its offensive line and a quarterback who was going to throw ...

Big gains help Huskers pound Dogs' all-or-nothing defensive attack

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Suddenly, the Nebraska ...