UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — They ejected Richie Incognito when fists started flying and things got ugly Saturday night, and the fiery Nebraska lineman found a spot to stew on the bench.
Bummer. He still had to watch this thing.
To the chants of "overrated," Nos. 7 and 8 Nebraska left Beaver Stadium humbled and jumbled after a 40-7 loss to No. 25 Penn State, the program's worst defeat in 12 years.
Blame it on those new all-white road uniforms, a record crowd of 110,753 or the 11-hour travel odyssey that didn't put the Huskers on Pennsylvania soil until late Friday night. All Nebraska knew was that all those questions and criticism that popped up after last year's rough finish are bound to resurface.
"I'm sure the first question I'll get is the same one I got last year-'What happened?'" said NU linebacker Barrett Ruud. "It's deserved. We deserve to get criticized. It was a bad performance."
Much like last year's 62-36 loss at Colorado, Nebraska's defense was guessing all night as Penn State quarterback Zack Mills threw at will. Much like the first three games of this 3-1 season, the Huskers' offense chugged, then blew a gasket in the second half.
Mills threw for 259 yards on Saturday, but the defining moment of the night came from a pass that flew out of NU quarterback Jammal Lord's hands. The Huskers were down 19-7 in the third quarter when the first-year starter let it fly. It sailed over Ben Cornelsen's head and into the hands of Rich Gardner, who ran it in 42 yards for a touchdown.
The Nittany Lion faithful, who have endured back-to-back losing seasons, went wild. Incognito and Penn State defensive end Jeremiah Davis went after it, flailing fists on about the 30-yard line. Both players were ejected, but it didn't really matter.
For Nebraska, the game started slipping away when the third quarter started.
Clinging to a 13-7 lead to start the third quarter, Mills marched the Nittany Lions downfield for an 84-yard touchdown drive that ate more than 7 minutes off the clock. It sapped some life out of the Huskers, NU free safety Philip Bland said.
It was just the beginning for Penn State.
"It was almost like they knew what defensive coverages we were running," Bland said. "Anytime you get beat like we did, you're going to doubt just about everything. That's what makes this so difficult. We had a good week of practice, we watched a lot of film. And they just came out and beat us."
The Nittany Lions did somersaults on the grass when it was over, and Nebraska dropped to 1-7 against ranked teams on the road under Coach Frank Solich.
Solich pointed to turnovers as the big cause of Nebraska's demise Saturday. Lord, in his road debut as a starter, threw three interceptions.
The first two quarters looked like many of the other nailbiters in the NU-Penn State rivalry. The two teams went the first quarter without scoring, and when the Nittany Lions finally broke through on Larry Johnson's 7-yard touchdown run, Lord marched the Huskers on an 84-yard drive to tie the game with 10:04 left in the half.
The momentum quickly swung the other way. Penn State (2-0) answered with another 78-yard drive that ended in a field goal, and from there, Mills was nearly unstoppable. The sophomore quarterback completed 19 of 31 passes for the night, and by halftime, Penn State had rolled up 291 yards.
Meanwhile, Nebraska's offense ground to a halt in the second half.
"It doesn't really hurt my confidence," said NU I-back Dahrran Diedrick, who finished with 71 yards and is still waiting for his first 100-yard game of the season. "It hurts my manhood, especially, when you know you just went out and got killed.
"It's going to be a long plane ride home with a lot of soul-searching to do."
|Yards per carry||5.0||5.6|
Nebraska is 9-8 all-time against Penn State.
|Arizona State||Aug. 24|
|Troy (formerly Troy State)||Aug. 31|
|Utah State||Sept. 7|
|Penn State||Sept. 14|
|Iowa State||Sept. 28|
|McNeese State||Oct. 5|
|Oklahoma State||Oct. 19|
|Texas A&M||Oct. 26|
|Kansas State||Nov. 16|
Nebraska has played 7 games on Sept. 14. See them all »
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