EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Penn State left Giants Stadium with a lump on its noggin.
It was applied by an unexpected bully the Nebraska defense.
Monday night's inaugural Kickoff Classic was promoted as a battle of Nebraska's offense and Penn State's defense. But the Huskers' resounding 44-6 victory was equal parts offense and defense.
The one-two punch knocked Penn State, the reigning king of college football, off its throne with a thud and firmly established top-ranked Nebraska's credentials as this year's preseason favorite.
The 38-point loss was equal to the worst by a Penn State team in Coach Joe Paterno's 17 years as coach. Nebraska now shares the accomplishment with UCLA, a 49-11 winner over the Lions in 1966.
The victory margin was one of the largest ever against a ranked team for Nebraska under Coach Tom Osborne. In 1974, Nebraska was ranked 12th and Kansas 13th the week before their game, which the Huskers won 56-0.
Nebraska, top-ranked in the Associated Press and United Press International news service polls, just missed a shutout.
Penn State's only score was a 35-yard pass from Dan Lonergan to back Sid Lewis with 20 seconds left in the game.
"I was really proud of them, " said Charlie McBride, NU's defensive coordinator. "No matter what you say we never talked about revenge. You don't have to talk about revenge when you're playing a team as good as Penn State."
Nebraska's fans may have attached some cosmic significance to this game, but the players and coaches insisted they weren't thinking about last year. Penn State cost the Huskers the national championship with a 27-24 win at University Park, Pa.
With 13 first-time starters, the Husker theme was to just play hard and to the best of their ability.
Nebraska probably didn't play its best. The Huskers had nine fumbles (only one lost), 77 yards in penalties and one pass interception.
"I was just amazed, " Osborne said. "I thought it would be a real tight game and with a little luck we'd win. I had no idea at all we'd win like this."
From Penn State's standpoint, the only similarity with last year's game was that the Lions threw 39 passes, the same number attempted by Todd Blackledge. He completed 23, while this year's quarterbacks, Doug Strang and Lonergan, completed just 13.
They had their problems all night. Strang completed his first pass, but he and Lonergan combined to miss on their next 11 attempts.
"I don't think it's only a question of quarterbacks, " Paterno said. "Our offensive line wasn't prepared to handle Nebraska."
It did appear most of the game that the Penn State quarterbacks had time to throw, but in several instances their passes failed to land in the same zip code as the open receivers.
With quarterback Turner Gill, Nebraska had the game's big offensive weapon. He completed 11 of 14 passes for 158 yards and a touchdown, and ran 13 times for 53 yards and a touchdown.
Gill was voted the game's outstanding offensive player. The defensive honor went to Husker linebacker Mike Knox, who scored on a 27-yard pass interception in the third quarter.
Penn State's defense was considered a possible threat to give the Husker offense some problems. It didn't happen.
"Offensively we thought we were going against the strongest part of their team, " Osborne said. "We did a good job."
Nebraska put together three impressive touchdown drives for a 21-0 first-half lead and continued on its way to pile up 322 yards rushing and 178 passing for 500 total.
Six players scored for the Huskers. Perhaps the most significant touchdowns came from tight ends Monte Engebritson and Todd Frain, who showed the position might not be the problem area people expected.
Engebritson, a fifth-year senior from Hastings, caught a 19-yarder in the second quarter from Gill for a touchdown. He finished with three catches for 28 yards.
The touchdown was only his second varsity catch.
Frain, a sophomore from Treynor, Iowa, scored on a 20-yard pass from Nate Mason in the second quarter. It was his first varsity catch.
Mason was inserted by Osborne with about six minutes left in the second quarter. It was a move he planned in advance to rest Gill, and to give Mason some playing time in case he's ever needed to fill in for an injured Gill.
Mason also scored once himself on a 21-yard run in the fourth quarter.
"You don't beat Nebraska with defense, " Paterno said. "You have to score some points. Nebraska was a great football team tonight. They beat us in every way.
"We got outcoached. It was their night."
|Yards per carry||2.5||5.6|
Nebraska is 9-8 all-time against Penn State.
|Penn State||Aug. 29|
|Oklahoma State||Oct. 8|
|Kansas State||Oct. 29|
|Iowa State||Nov. 5|
|Miami (FL)||Jan. 2|
Nebraska has played 2 games on Aug. 29. See them all »
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