Penn State vs. Nebraska: 10 Things We Learned from Cornhuskers' Win vs. PSU
The Nebraska Cornhuskers trailed the Penn State Nittany Lions 20-6 at halftime but went on a 26-3 scoring run in the second half to escape Memorial Stadium with a victory and moved one step closer to capturing their first Big Ten Conference, Legends Division title.
Taylor Martinez and Ameer Abdullah could not be stopped, and a controversial turnover will be talked about for years to come in Happy Valley.
What else did we learn from Nebraska's victory over the Nittany Lions on Saturday? Click ahead to find out!
Penn State Has a Legitimate Beef with the Replay Officials
The Penn State Nittany Lions looked as though they had re-taken the lead with just under nine minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, but as tight end Matt Lehman stretched out to break the plain along the goal line, the ball hit one of the Nebraska Cornhuskers' defenders on the leg, and the Big Red recovered the fumble in the end zone for a touchback.
After taking some time to examine the replays, it did appear that Lehman got the ball into the end zone just before it was knocked out of his hands.
The replay officials decided to stick with the call on the field and believed Lehman lost control of the football before breaking the plain.
No one will ever know what kind of an impact that play would have had on the game if the officials would have overturned the call and given Penn State the touchdown, but the Nittany Lions definitely have a legitimate gripe.
No Rex? No Problem
Rex Burkhead missed his third straight game, and fifth overall, with a knee injury, but the combination of sophomore I-back Ameer Abdullah and dual-threat quarterback Taylor Martinez proved to be too much for the Penn State Nittany Lions to handle defensively.
The Nebraska Cornhuskers rushed for 267 yards on 57 attempts, as Martinez and Abdullah combined for 220 rushing yards, while freshman running back Imani Cross scored both of the Big Red's rushing touchdowns.
It is never a good thing to have one of your best players on the sideline nursing an injury, but the Cornhuskers have more than made do without Burkhead in their starting lineup for much of the season.
Penn State's Lack of Depth Costs Them Late in Games
The Penn State Nittany Lions are a first-half team, and that should not surprise anyone, considering how little depth Bill O'Brien has in Happy Valley right now.
The Nittany Lions have outscored opponents 83-6 in the first quarter this season but have been outscored 49-10 in the third quarter against ranked opponents and allowed the Nebraska Cornhuskers to end the game on a 26-3 scoring run.
The injuries began to mount for Penn State in the second half, and the defense was exhausted early in the fourth quarter after spending too much time on the field with limited rotation.
O'Brien coached this game to the best of his abilities. The only problem is the Nittany Lions do not have enough athletes to make up for any injuries they sustain or to simply give some of the starters a quick breather.
Nebraska's Defense Still Has Some Work to Do
Despite the impressive performance on defense late, the Nebraska Cornhuskers have a lot of work to do on that side of the ball before they can be considered the clear-cut favorite to win the Big Ten Championship.
The Cornhuskers allowed Zach Zwinak to rush for 141 yards, including a 50-yard touchdown run just four plays into the game.
Matt McGloin also had some success against the defense, but for the most part, the Cornhuskers looked good in coverage and did not allow any of the Penn State Nittany Lions wide receivers to gain much separation.
The secondary has come along nicely for the Cornhuskers, now it is up to their rushing defense to follow suit.
Zach Zwinak Is Quickly Becoming One of the Big Ten's Best Running Backs
Zach Zwinak is certainly not a household name, but the sophomore running back has rushed for 100 yards or more in four of the last six games for the Penn State Nittany Lions, which is more than impressive enough to label him as a rising star in the Big Ten Conference.
The Frederick, Md., native is most effective between the tackles and does not usually go down upon first contact from defenders.
Zwinak broke numerous tackles against the Nebraska Cornhuskers on Saturday en route to a 21-carry, 141-yard, one-touchdown performance in Penn State's 32-23 loss at Memorial Stadium.
The 6'1", 232-pounder will attempt to break the century mark for a third straight time next weekend against the Indiana Hoosiers.
Nebraska Has a Flair for the Dramatic
The Nebraska Cornhuskers have given their fans more than a couple of scares this season and have had to rally from a double-digit deficit on four separate occasions, including a 26-3 outburst that erased the Penn State Nittany Lions 14-point halftime lead on Saturday.
Last week, the Cornhuskers scored 14 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to top the Michigan State Spartans in East Lansing and trailed the Wisconsin Badgers, 20-3, before outscoring Brett Bielema's team, 27-7, down the stretch.
Nebraska trailed the Northwestern Wildcats for much of their Week 8 matchup before rallying in the fourth quarter and taking a one-point lead with just over two minutes remaining in the game.
A win is a win, but I'm sure Nebraska fans would like to see the Cornhuskers have a game in hand before the final minutes of play.
Penn State's Red-Zone Defense Is Impressive
The Penn State Nittany Lions gave up over 400 yards of total offense against the Nebraska Cornhuskers, but their defense held up well in the red zone after the Big Red moved the ball inside the 20-yard line with ease.
Nebraska entered the red zone twice in the first half and were forced to settle for field goals as a result of great team defense by the Nittany Lions.
Additionally, the Nittany Lions forced a turnover inside the 5-yard line and held Nebraska to a 33-yard field goal late in the game after turning the ball over deep in their own territory.
Penn State does not have speed on the edges, which is why Taylor Martinez and Ameer Abdullah had so much success against the Nittany Lions, though the defense showed the ability to turn Nebraska's top rushers back inside the red zone and keep the Cornhuskers from scoring several touchdowns.
Nebraska Is a Legitimate Top-15 Team
There is nothing more that the Nebraska Cornhuskers have to prove before they are given the respect a top-15 team deserves after their fourth double-digit comeback victory of the 2012 season against the Penn State Nittany Lions.
The Big Ten Conference may not be as strong as it has been in the past, but the Cornhuskers beat the Northwestern Wildcats, Michigan Wolverines, Michigan State Spartans and Penn State in succession and boast an 8-2 overall record.
Taylor Martinez and Ameer Abdullah are one of the nation's top rushing duos, and Nebraska's secondary has become the focal point of their improving defense.
Say what you will about the overall lack of talent in the Top 25 at the moment, just do not attempt to discount what Nebraska has done over the last month.
Penn State Will Finish the 2012 Season with a Winning Record
The Penn State Nittany Lions have been much better than everyone around the country thought they would be prior to the start of the 2012 season, and there is no reason to doubt that Bill O'Brien's team will find a way to win one of their two remaining games against the Indiana Hoosiers and Wisconsin Badgers.
Penn State has a strong enough defense to hang tough with the Badgers in their regular-season finale, and Matt McGloin should have no problem picking apart Indiana's secondary next weekend.
Zach Zwinak has been impressive running the ball over the past couple of months and will give Penn State's offense the balance it needs to knock off the Badgers and/or the Hoosiers.
The overwhelming advantage for the Nittany Lions in their final two games of the year is the fact that Wisconsin and Indiana have to come to Happy Valley to take on what will be an emotionally charged team out to prove that they stayed at Penn State to be winners.
Nebraska Has a Stranglehold on the Legends Division
The Nebraska Cornhuskers gave fans of the Michigan Wolverines a glimmer of hope this afternoon only to snatch it away with a furious second-half rally to top the Penn State Nittany Lions and keep control of their destiny in the Big Ten Conference Legends Division race.
The only two games Nebraska has left are against the Minnesota Golden Gophers, who are 6-4 on the year and 2-4 in Big Ten play, and the struggling Iowa Hawkeyes.
Meanwhile, the Wolverines have to face Iowa and the undefeated Ohio State Buckeyes at the Horseshoe in Columbus to conclude their 2012 regular season.
Nebraska clearly has the advantage in the scheduling category and hold the tiebreaker over the Wolverines, which will be enough to get the Cornhuskers to Indianapolis as long as they take care of business against Iowa and Minnesota.