LINCOLN — The passing game is so shaky that they almost didn't throw the ball at all. The prettiest play of the night was a guy digging the ball out of a pile of flailing bodies.
Nebraska Coach Frank Solich has 10 days to worry all about that. On an electric but ugly night, the No. 18 Cornhuskers survived for an 18-10 win over Penn State on Saturday in another game that was won by the defense and prompted more questions about the offense.
Yes, the Huskers can dominate the line of scrimmage. They had the ball almost twice as long as Penn State did and got a career-high 179 yards from I-back Josh Davis. But they needed a fumble recovery from Barrett Ruud with just under 7 minutes to play to move to 3-0 on a chilly night when 78,008 fans never really got comfortable.
"It's obvious we've got to get something going in the passing game," Solich said in the understatement of the night.
"Maybe that just means throwing it a little more."
In the days leading up to the Sept. 25 game at Southern Mississippi, speculation undoubtedly will swirl on the quarterback situation.
First you have Jammal Lord, who got booed again Saturday. One year after his nightmare in Happy Valley, the three interceptions and the 40-7 loss, the senior quarterback stumbled through a rocky first half.
He underthrew a wide-open Ross Pilkington in the end zone in the first quarter and was intercepted. He fumbled on the NU 29 to set up Penn State's first touchdown with 10:28 left in the first half.
When Lord fumbled on the next series — he recovered it — he was showered with boos. Within a couple of minutes, true freshman Joe Dailey was warming up on the sidelines.
Dailey never played, in part because Solich said he had a bad week in practice. Also absent was junior Mike Stuntz, who recently lost the backup job to Dailey. Stuntz, who wasn't spotted on the sidelines, is looking to redshirt, Solich said after the game.
The Huskers threw just six passes on Saturday.
At least they had Davis. When Nebraska came out of the locker room at halftime down 10-9, Davis got the call. He ran up the middle for 14 yards. He took seven straight snaps, and accounted for 49 yards on an 80-play touchdown drive to start the second half.
"I thought he was a great warrior for us in there," Solich said.
"He kept us in the game."
So did the Blackshirts, who have allowed just 24 points in three games. Nebraska ate up more than 8 minutes off the clock on that opening drive in the third quarter and took a 15-10 lead on Jammal Lord's 3-yard touchdown run.
The defense made it stand. Penn State quarterback Zack Mills, who has struggled during a 1-2 start to the season, tried to rally the Nittany Lions in the fourth quarter. He drove Penn State 21 yards to midfield with just under 7 minutes to play and the Huskers clinging to a 15-10 lead.
Then the next snap sailed in the air and Mills struggled on the turf with a teammate to recover it.
Ruud, who rescued the Huskers with a fumble recovery for a touchdown in the season opener against Oklahoma State, reached under a white jersey and snatched the football.
"I just grabbed it," Ruud said. "I had to dig it out and get the ref's attention."
After a 26-yard scramble by Lord, the Huskers called on freshman David Dyches to seal the game. His 32-yard field goal sailed through the uprights, and the Huskers had an 18-10 lead with 3:53 to go.
For the second straight week, Dyches hit four field goals. For the third time this season, the Huskers struggled to score in the red zone and clung to every point they got.
"We just need to keep on working and fine-tuning," Davis said.
And that is what Nebraska will do in the off week before its first road game in Hattiesburg. As the clock ran down late Saturday, Nebraska Offensive Coordinator Barney Cotton hugged Solich and Defensive Coordinator Bo Pelini on the sidelines.
No, it wasn't pretty. But it counts as 3-0.
"It feels fantastic," said NU right tackle Dan Vili Waldrop. "You feel great about being 3-0 and not having been upset. It gives us a lot of confidence."
|Yards per carry||2.1||4.7|
Nebraska is 9-8 all-time against Penn State.
|Oklahoma State||Aug. 30|
|Utah State||Sept. 6|
|Penn State||Sept. 13|
|Southern Miss||Sept. 25|
|Troy (formerly Troy State)||Oct. 4|
|Texas A&M||Oct. 18|
|Iowa State||Oct. 25|
|Kansas State||Nov. 15|
|Michigan State||Dec. 29|
Nebraska has played 8 games on Sept. 13. See them all »
©2018 BH Media Group