UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — So Penn State dropped Nebraska’s offensive numbers out of the stratosphere Saturday. No matter. The Cornhusker defense was out of sight.
With Blackshirts Jimmy Williams, Derrie Nelson, Curt Hineline, Henry Waechter and David Clark repeatedly goring a pair of rookie quarterbacks, the Husker offense was handed enough opportunities to muscle out a 21-7 verdict in the nation’s college football headliner.
The Nebraska offense, even operating short of devastation, is no slouch. Seven gift chances from the defense allowed the attack team to play above 141 yards in penalties, three turnovers of its own and still make its safari into Lion Country a resounding success.
Nebraska enhanced its reputation as the unbeaten No. 3 team in the country and showcased its Heisman Trophy choice, Jarvis Redwine, for 189 yards before a national television audience and a Beaver Stadium record crowd of 84,585. The only Nebraska team to play before a larger live audience was the 1940 Rose Bowl team.
Nebraska jumped up 14-0 in the first half on defense-inspired mini drives of 30 and 19 yards following a fumble recovery and interception. Penn State came out snarling late in the second quarter and cut the lead to 14-7, but the Lions were unable to overcome a super-charged defense that took the ball away four times on fumbles, three times on interceptions and dumped quarterbacks Jeff Hostetler and Todd Blackledge nine times for losses totaling 89 yards.
Four of the eight Penn State offensive drives in the second half were killed by turnovers while the Huskers established ball-control dominance for a security touchdown with a 74-yard drive in the third quarter. Nebraska’s possession edge in the third quarter was 11:32 to 3:28.
“I thought our defense won the game for us. We did nothing. We need to improve offensively,” Nebraska quarterback Jeff Quinn said. Quinn understated the offense’s case.
Quinn’s precision short-to-medium-range passing accounted for 158 yards on 12 completions in 17 attempts. Nebraska’s total offense edge was 445-156.
But 445 yards was far short of Nebraska’s nation-leading 618.5 average. The 287 rushing yards were 214 below the norm, and the 21 points were 35 below the pace of the last two games. The Huskers also lead the nation in rushing and scoring.
“I’ll tell you,” wingback Tim McCrady said, “if we can play that sloppy and beat a team like that, we’ll be all right.”
Husker Coach Tom Osborne quickly reminded “This is the capital of Eastern football as far as we’re concerned. Every win is important, particularly when it is against a good team on its own field.”
Joe Paterno’s Penn State team was unbeaten in two games and ranked 11th. Its 482-yard total offense average was fourth nationally.
Although elusive sophomore tailback Curt Warner escaped for 80 yards on 16 carries, the Lions netted a mere 33 yards rushing.
With the game deteriorating into a series of giveaways in the fourth quarter, attention turned to Redwine’s growing statistical ledger. He rushed a career-high 34 times for his 189 yards, second only to his 206 against Colorado last year. He scored the second and third touchdowns from the 3 and 1. And Redwine strutted some new stuff, turning two swing passes into 49 more yards.
“Yeah, I’m tired and sore,” Redwine admitted afterwards. “Being on national TV in itself gives me the chills. But I needed the extra work. I knew it wouldn’t be a blowout.”
Osborne conceded that he normally hesitates to “hype a player,” but he couldn’t pass up the opportunity with the large Eastern press contingent to plug Redwine for the Heisman. “The only other player we’ve had with as much talent was Johnny Rodgers, and he DID win the Heisman Trophy. Jarvis certainly deserves the recognition,” Osborne said.
But, Osborne insisted, he did not feed the ball to Redwine 34 times (five more than his total for the first two games) as a hype. “We gave it to him as much as we had to,” Osborne said.
ABC named Redwine its Most Valuable Player for Nebraska after his performance.
While Quinn kept the Lions off balance with his darts, the Nebraska defense limited sophomore Hostetler and second-year freshman Blackledge to seven completions in 21 attempts with two interceptions by monster Sammy Sims and one by safety Russell Gary.
Sims, who set up the second touchdown with an interception and 27-yard return to the Penn State 19, said, “It was the interior line with the pass rush. The linemen put a lot of pressure on the quarterback and made it easy for the defensive backs.”
Defensive ends Williams and Nelson made their presence known from the outset. Each had sacks of Hostetler in the opening series. Williams, who finished the game with four, had three and Nelson two and a fumble recovery before the first quarter ended.
“I’d like to say we changed some things to account for all the sacks,” Defensive Coordinator Lance Van Zandt said, “but it was the same old stuff. We just attacked them a little better. We were real aggressive. If you hit people hard enough, they’ll fumble.
“Our philosophy is to make something happen. We did today...about seven times.”
But Van Zandt stopped short of claiming the day for the defense.
“Call it a team victory,” he said. “We ran 86 offensive plays to their 61. Our offense was better than their offense. Our defense was better than their defense. So that makes it a team victory.”
Osborne was “impressed with Penn State’s linemen, both offensively and defensively. The thing that disappointed me was that we stopped ourselves so many times with penalties.”
Nebraska also missed scoring opportunities when Eddie Neil failed on 42- and 44-yard field goal attempts in the second quarter and Kevin Seibel missed from 40 in the third. All were in the wind.
Nelson’s recovery of a Hostetler fumble at the Lion 30 led to the opening touchdown on Quinn’s sneak. Sims’ first interception and return to the 19 in the second quarter set up Redwine’s three-yard touchdown.
Penn State, however, answered with an eight-play, 74-yard drive featuring a 40-yard completion from Blackledge to Kenny Jackson down the left sideline. Ric Lindquist saved the touchdown at the 5, but Warner scored two plays later from the 3.
“The one touchdown they got was my fault,” Van Zaundt said. “I had them in the wrong coverage. We were in a two-deep zone, and they sent out two deep receivers. It would have been better with a three-deep zone or man-to-man,” he said.
Penn State enthusiasm was at its peak at that point. The Lion defense dropped the Huskers for losses on five of the next seven plays, and Walker Ashley partially blocked a Scott Gemar punt. Penn State took over at the N.U. 44.
Blackledge missed on a pass to Kenny Baugh, who was open up the middle, but Sims snuffed the charge with his second interception.
“The momentum had shifted in the second quarter, and the key to the whole game was our drive in the third quarter,” Osborne said. Quinn was at his deadly best after the Huskers were set back to their 26 on a pitchout and left-footed quick kick for 54 yards by Baugh. Quinn was perfect on completions of 15 and 9 yards to Todd Brown, the leading receiver with five for 60 yards, and 11 to tight end Steve Davies. The longest runs in the 13-play drive were 9 and 8 yards by Redwine, who dived the final yard.
Quinn was 10 of 12 at that point.
Penn State threatened again in the fourth quarter, aided by a 26-yard pass interference penalty on third-and-13 when Gary leaped from behind and swatted the ball away from Mike McCloskey. “It was a bad call. I didn’t touch him,” Gary pleaded.
Blackledge followed up with an 11-yard keeper, and Warner broke loose for a 26-yard gain. The Lions charged to the Nebraska 11 before Jackson was chased down for a 14-yard loss on an end-around, and reserve middle guard Jeff Merrell recovered the accompanying fumble.
“We had some chances to put the game away, but Penn State had some bad breaks, too,” Osborne said. “It’s nice to have a senior quarterback. Quinn showed a lot of class today. This kind of game will help their young quarterbacks. Penn State will win a lot of games.”
Quinn acknowledged that Penn State’s defense improved in stopping Redwine on the option plays that accounted for most of his early yardage, "but our offense is so complex that we can do so many things. We hurt them inside later.”
Safety Gary said, “We knew the offense wasn’t playing as well as it can. They were moving the ball, but they weren’t scoring. We had to get them the ball. It was just a case of everybody pulling together.”
|Yards per carry||0.8||4.2|
Nebraska is 9-8 all-time against Penn State.
|Penn State||Sept. 27|
|Florida State||Oct. 4|
|Oklahoma State||Oct. 18|
|Kansas State||Nov. 8|
|Iowa State||Nov. 15|
|Mississippi State||Dec. 27|
Nebraska has played 11 games on Sept. 27. See them all »
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