Penn State Football: Grading All 22 Starters from the Nebraska Game
After jumping out to an early lead on Saturday, Penn State wasn’t able to put away an upset in Lincoln against Nebraska.
The Lions, led by senior quarterback Matt McGloin, were held scoreless in the final quarter while Nebraska’s 12 fourth quarter points were the deciding factor in the game.
Although Nebraska was able to narrowly survive against Bill O’Brien’s team, Taylor Martinez still accumulated 275 total yards through the air and on the ground.
In the end Nebraska was able to ice the game with a late field goal to put the game out of reach for the Nittany Lions, but both sides played well in Saturday’s hard-fought game.
Let’s get to the grades.
Matt McGloin: B+
McGloin continued to show why is he one of the Big Ten’s top passers, with 240 yards passing and a touchdown.
That being said, McGloin did throw an interception and did take a sack in the end zone at the end of the game.
Overall though, Saturday was another solid effort by the Penn State’s slinger against a strong Nebraska secondary.
Taylor Martinez: A
Martinez continued to show how truly athletic he is on Saturday. He had over 100 yards rushing and threw for 171 yards.
The quarterback led the Cornhuskers down the field for a key fourth quarter touchdown, and threw no interceptions.
He did fumble though, and overall didn’t have a spectacular day but he just kept grinding it out.
Martinez did what he needed to do for his team to win, in the end that’s all that matters.
Zach Zwinak: A
All the questions surrounding why O’Brien continues to go with the big rumblin’ bumblin’ Zwinak were answered on Saturday when he broke a run for 50 yards and touchdown.
Zwinak’s old school “smash you in the mouth” running seemed to wear down Nebraska, as the 232-pounder ran for a career high 141 yards against the fifth ranked defense in the B1G.
The main blemish on his performance Saturday was a fumble inside the red zone during the first quarter.
Had it not been for that, Zwinak would’ve been the game’s top performer with his 178 total yards.
Ameer Abdullah: B+
The explosiveness of Abdullah was showcased against Penn State’s defense, with the back going for 116 yards on 31 carries.
Abdullah wasn’t able to get into the end zone, and he only averaged 3.7 yards per carry.
Penn State was able to contain him and prevent any big plays.
Penn State: A-
Allen Robinson was one of the top performers on Saturday, pulling in six catches for 97 yards.
Along with Allen, seven other Penn State receivers were able to combine for 240 yards and a touchdown.
The Nittany Lions had an OK performance by their receivers, but Robinson stole the show and continued to assert his dominance.
The Cornhuskers were able to really get their passing going against Penn State’s secondary Saturday.
Kyler Reed led Nebraska, pulling in two passes for 60 yards, but he's a tight end.
Nebraska's best performance from a wide receiver came from Jamal Turner, who had two catches for 35 yards and a touchdown.
The rest of the Cornhusker receivers were held under 40 yards receiving each.
For how explosive Nebraska’s receivers are supposed to be, I simply didn’t see it this weekend.
Penn State: B
Although they were quieter than we’ve gotten used to, Penn State’s tight ends still made a big impact.
Jesse James had a touchdown along with two catches for 21 yards, and Matt Lehman had three catches for 32 yards.
Had Lehman’s fumble into the end zone been reversed, their grade might be a little higher.
Nonetheless, lower than usual production and a fumble brought down the game of the tight ends in Happy Valley.
On a day when Taylor Martinez struggled to get the passing game going, Nebraska’s Kyler Reed stepped up.
Reed brought in two catches for a team-high 60 yards and averaged 30 yards per catch. Along with Reed, Ben Cotton got in on the action with a catch for 18 yards.
For how much spotlight has been put on Penn State’s tight ends, Reed and the Cornhusker tight ends outplayed them on Saturday.
Penn State: B-
The offensive line for the Nittany Lions was able to build off a win against Purdue, and plow the way for Zwinak to rush for 141 yards.
But they still allowed the Cornhusker defense to get in the face of McGloin and sack him three times.
Although they did a decent job, they weren’t able to protect McGloin in the fourth quarter when it really counted.
Not a terrible job, but not a great one either.
It was the same story, different day for Nebraska’s offensive line that led the way towards 267 yards on the ground.
This offensive line proved Saturday why the Cornhuskers are the B1G’s top rushing offense.
Martinez was sacked twice by the Penn State defense but with a running quarterback, two sacks really aren’t too bad.
These big hog mollies were the top performers on Saturday.
Penn State: B
The Nittany Lion defensive line faced a tough task against Nebraska’s explosive rushing attack.
Deion Barnes and Jordan Hill led the line with six and five tackles, respectively, and Barnes collected his fifth sack of the season.
Although they couldn’t stop Martinez, these guys helped hold Abdullah to 3.7 yards per carry, and kept Nebraska’s rushing offense around its average yards per game (it averages 269.3 yards per game).
The Nebraska front line really didn’t do a good job against Penn State’s rushing offense. They were able to get to McGloin, but the Nittany Lions are in the bottom four of the B1G in rushing.
Zwinak kept pounding away at the Cornhusker defensive line and wore them down.
If Eric Martin and Baker Steinkuhler weren’t able to get after the quarterback twice, this group wouldn’t have had much going on Saturday.
Penn State: A
All season long this group of linebackers has shown true dominance, and every game one of the three starters seems to have a big game.
Both Gerald Hodges and Glenn Carson led the team with 14 tackles, and Michael Mauti had 10 tackles and forced a fumble, while Mike Hull collected seven tackles and recovered a fumble.
It was a pretty solid matchup between Nebraska’s rushing attack and the linebackers, and the impact they made was obvious with Penn State almost posting the upset and holding the Cornhuskers under the points per game average.
Will Compton once again led the Cornhusker defense with 10 tackles.
Besides Compton though, Nebraska’s linebackers made little impact on the game. Sean Fisher and Alonzo Whaley combined for 10 tackles all together—just as many as Mauti alone.
These linebackers didn’t do a very good job against Zwinak and Penn State’s downhill running game.
They did enough to slow Penn State and win, but barely enough.
Penn State: B+
The Penn State secondary was able to do everything they needed to win on Saturday.
Along with holding Martinez to only 171 yards through the air, they neutralized Kenny Bell and much of Nebraska’s big play abilities through the air (except for a 50-yard grab by Reed).
Stephon Morris led the secondary with nine tackles on a day when wrapping up the explosive Abdullah and Martinez in the open field was key.
They guys did a solid job against a strong offense.
For being one of the top pass defenses in the B1G, Nebraska’s secondary was mediocre. They allowed McGloin to torch them for 240 yards and a touchdown.
Robinson, one of the B1G’s top receivers, was able to get open all day and hauled in a game high six passes.
Daimion Stafford had a key pick, but that’s about it.
Penn State: A-
Sam Ficken has seemed to forget the beginning of the year. He was three for three on field-goal attempts and blasted five of his six kickoffs for touch backs.
Alex Butterworth had a solid day punting, averaging 47.7 yards per punt.
But Penn State’s return game just isn’t good. Jesse Della Valle and Evan Lewis took care of the ball, but didn’t break any big returns.
Much like Ficken, Brett Maher was three for three on field-goal attempts, and Maher averaged 41 yards per punt.
The Cornhuskers only returned one kickoff for 22 yards and a punt for one yard.
Not much going on in their return game, but Maher had a good day kicking.