Penn State vs. Nebraska: What Role Emotion May Play in This Weekend's Showdown

Dan LaLondeContributor INovember 11, 2011

Penn State vs. Nebraska: What Role Emotion May Play in This Weekend's Showdown

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    Emotion can be a funny thing in sports.

    It can serve as a rallying point for a team and bring out the best in them.  It can also level a team and defeat them before they ever leave the locker room.

    The unpredictability of emotion has given us some of the highest of highs in sports, as well as some of the lowest of lows.

    While no one really knows what to expect during tomorrow's Big Ten showdown in State College, it will almost certainly be a scene unlike anything we have seen before.

The Scene at Penn State

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    The emotional high Penn State was riding following a 10-7 win against Big Ten rival Illinois was crushed by an unimaginable low leading up to their showdown this weekend against Nebraska.

    In the grand scheme of things, the football game itself is largely inconsequential.  Years from now few will remember who won the game and who lost it, but they will remember everything that transpired leading up to kickoff.

    The game, however, will be played this Saturday in Beaver Stadium at noon.  What happens during those 60 minutes of football is anyone's guess, but in order to prepare for it let's take a look back at some of the more emotional scenes in recent sports history. 

In Honor of Their Owner: The Raiders Just Win, Baby

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    Just last month, the Raiders' longtime owner Al Davis passed away, one day before the team was to play on the road against the Houston Texans.

    Oakland played inspired football following the news of Davis' death and pulled out a dramatic 25-20 win in the waning seconds of the game.

    Head coach Hue Jackson was overcome by emotion and fell to one knee on the sidelines, openly weeping as the game ended.

    It was an emotional scene that concluded with Oakland dedicating the win to the man they all respectfully called "Mr. Davis."

Fennville High Plays on After Losing Their Leader

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    Celebration turned to tragedy in Holland, Michigan as Fennville high school basketball star Wes Leonard died shortly after hitting a game-winning shot in March earlier this year.

    It was later discovered that Leonard had gone into cardiac arrest due to an enlarged heart.

    The story captivated the nation as Leonard's team played on in his honor, winning three more games in the Class C state tournament before losing their final game.

    The story of unimaginable tragedy transformed into one of triumph, as the overmatched Fennville team played in honor of their fallen teammate.  Leonard's story will not be soon forgotten, nor will the courageous play of his teammates.

The Saints Go Marching into the Superdome Post-Katrina

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    September 25, 2006.

    Everyone remembers where they were and who they were with when they watched the Saints dismantle the Falcons in the first game back in the Superdome following Hurricane Katrina.

    It was an unforgettable scene that helped all of us remember why we love sports so much.  The result of the game didn't matter; all that mattered was where it was being played.  We all became Saints fans, if only for one day in September of 2006.

    New Orleans would have been winners regardless of the outcome, but the 23-3 victory provided the icing on the cake.

    Nearly everyone who attended the game felt that Atlanta was defeated before they even took the field that Sunday in September.  Some even felt that no team ever assembled could have won in New Orleans that day, and after seeing the raw emotion throughout the stadium it's hard to argue.  

Favre Shines Following Father's Death

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    Love him or hate him, no one would deny Brett Favre always had a flare for the dramatic.

    Following the sudden death of his father on December 22, 2003, Favre delivered perhaps the most spectacular performance of his illustrious career, throwing for 399 yards and four TDs in a 41-7 demolition of Oakland, just one day after his father's passing.

    His story touched millions who had suffered through the loss of a parent, and added another chapter to his storied legacy.

    Emotion lifted Favre and his teammates up for that game, leaving the Raiders with the best seat in the house for one of football's greatest moments.

Nebraska vs. Penn State 11/12/11

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    No one knows what to expect in the moments leading up to Penn State's homecoming game against Nebraska on Saturday—but if this week has taught us anything, it's to expect the unexpected.

    The student body has made their feelings known following the abrupt dismissal of Coach Paterno, and they figure to be loud and boisterous in support of their team and former coach.

    Those outside the Penn State community have been equally opinionated, and are largely in favor of the coach's ousting, as well as anyone who had knowledge of the alleged assaults that took place on school ground.

    While no one knows what will happen in an atmosphere that figures to be unlike anything we've ever seen, we should not be surprised by anything.

    Penn State may come out inspired and go on to a convincing victory in pursuit of a Big Ten championship.  However, they may fall victim to the overwhelming series of events that took place this week, and simply get steamrolled by the Cornhuskers.

    Whatever happens tomorrow, the only thing we can safely assume is that emotion will probably have as much to do with the outcome as the players on the field.