Nebraska vs. Penn State: Grading the Nittany Lions Loss Against the Cornhuskers

James Brown@@chasingballgameSenior Analyst INovember 12, 2011

Nebraska vs. Penn State: Grading the Nittany Lions Loss Against the Cornhuskers

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    The emotions were at an all-time high for the game between the Penn State Nittany Lions and the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

    The community surrounding Penn State longed for a diversion from real-world events, and the football game this afternoon was just what they needed.

    This was more than just a football game and had many different intangibles that are rarely seen in a college football game. Here are grades for the Nittany Lions in their 17-14 home loss to Nebraska.


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    The Penn State offense put some solid drives together, but stalled on several occasions to include a costly turnover early in the third quarter by QB Matt McGloin. That turnover led to seven points for the Huskers and what seemed like momentum.

    When they managed to avoid the mistakes, the offensive line gave plenty of time to move the ball down the field.  When senior Stephon Green broke into the end zone for the first touchdown of the game for the Lions, the momentum was back.

    The offense adjusted late and they even pulled out several “trick” plays like the halfback option to move swiftly down the field. After the second touchdown by Green, it was obvious that the offense was not going away quietly.

    In the end, the offense could not move the ball when it needed to. They came up short on a vital 4th and 1 that ended a decent drive.

    When the defense stopped Nebraska and was able to get the ball back there was not enough time left for the Penn State offense to come up with a big enough play to get within field goal range.

    Grade: B


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    The No. 8 ranked run defense in the nation was exposed in this game by the Huskers and the great play calling.

    The Huskers passed early to spread out the defense and took advantage of that in the second have by establishing the run. When the Lions moved in to defend the run they were open to mid-range passes. Tyler Martinez is hard for any defense to corral.

    Rex Burkhead wore down the defense on the ground as he piled up the yards, and the defense failed to stop Nebraska on several key conversions.

    A crucial pass interference call near the end of the first half was a glaring mistake that allowed the Cornhuskers to open up the early lead. However in key moments, such as after the Penn State score, the defense were up to the challenge and got the ball back to the offense.

    The defense had to do something down the stretch to keep Penn State in the game and responded with a big fumble recovery in the fourth quarter. This was just the beginning.

    The defense held Nebraska with under five minutes to go in the game setting up the offense with one more chance.The front line began to overwhelm the line of scrimmage, and in the fourth it was the penetration that made the difference.

    In the biggest moment of the game, it was the defense that came up big and stopped the Cornhuskers on a fourth down play that would have sealed the victory. Unfortunately it was not enough.

    Grade: B+

Special Teams

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    Field goal kicker Anthony Fera missed a 47 yard field goal early in the game, which was a bit surprising with his consistency during the season.

    On kickoff returns, Penn State dropped several balls which delayed the return and often cost field position.

    It was a shame that the special teams unit did not get a chance to tie the game with a late field goal. 

    Grade: C


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    Tom Bradley was selected to be the head coach and lead the Nittany Lions into this game.

    This was not an easy assignment with all of the controversy surrounding the football program and the university. Bradley’s toughest job may have been dealing with the media and all of the questions leading up to kickoff.

    Bradley’s poise and demeanor should not be overlooked as this was as important as any aspect of coaching in this game. His preparation of these young men was in full display on the field.

    On the field, Bradley made adjustments when needed and showed faith in his players. Bradley deserves high praise for this game.

    Grade: A+


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    For all the grief that the Penn State students received during the week after rioting in the streets, they made up for it today.

    They found a reason to rally and used their motivation and energy in a positive way. They reached out to support victims of sexual abuse and even welcomed Nebraska fans before the game started.

    The fans had moments where they were quieted by the play of the Cornhuskers, but in the fourth quarter they were very loud supporting the players on the field.

    The game ended with a standing ovation and chants and cheers, as the fans showed their appreciation for a hard-fought effort.

    Hats off to the fans and the students as they deserve high marks for their actions on Saturday afternoon.

    Grade: A+


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    The game between Nebraska and Penn State was unbelievable. With the scandal and the uproar in the Penn State community it was refreshing to see the fans come together to support the players, the university, and one another.

    The alumni that showed up for this game to support the team and their school was amazing and added another special moment to this big game.

    Both teams should be proud of the way they played today and how they represented some bigger than the game of football.

    Overall Grade: A

    James Brown is a B/R Featured Columnist and can be followed on Twitter here. Feel free to contact James at