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ThotDoc's Brain Droppings on the Penn State Game

Penn State Pours it on amidst Profuse Precipitation in a Poor Performance in Pennsylvania

In a game that wasn’t nearly as close as the score indicated, the Penn State Nittany Lions pounded the Nebraska Cornhuskers 56-44 in State College, Pennsylvania. The Huskers rallied late against PSU reserves after trailing 42-10 at half and surrendering 439 yards before intermission. The infamous Riley records continued as the Huskers gave up 50+ yards in back to back games for the first time since 1945 and yielded 50+ for the third time in a season for the first time since 1943. I thought it was bad when we were matching futility records from the 1960s and now we are back into the World War Two years.

After getting a couple of gifts from Penn State in the punt game in the first quarter allowing Nebraska to take a 10-7 lead, the offense went three and out the next five series gaining a total of 12 yards. The Huskers had three total yards in the second quarter and gave up 264 yards while they were being outscored 28-0. The Blackshirts surrendered 606 yards for the game and had Penn State not taken their foot off the gas, they likely would have given up north of 800. Defense Coordinator Bob Diaco’s tackling instructions must not include using one’s arms as there were more missed tackles than those made. Poor angles and alignment combined with crappy containment allowed Saquon Barkley to net 158 yards on 17 carries (111 in the first half alone on just 7 carries). Even the Lions second string offense scored easily on the Blackshirts in the 4th quarter. It is shocking how much worse our defense got in just one year under Diaco. Nebraska has given up 235 points in their last five losses.

To their credit, the Husker offense didn’t give up in the second half and took advantage of their opportunities, especially in the 4th quarter against the PSU players with the extra white pants. They managed to break the 30-point mark for the first time in 9 games when they scored 35 against Oregon. JD Spielman, Stanley Morgan, Jr, De’Mornay Pierson-El, Tyler Hoppes and Tanner Lee all played gamely in the 2nd half when it had looked last week that the team no longer had a pulse.

In his post-game interview, Mike Riley tried to rationalize that with the new offensive and defensive schemes, this is like year one instead of year three. Mike, your defense played better in year one and that was in a 5-7 season. Mr. Nice Guy knows that it will be over for him next Friday evening after the Huskers finish their game with Iowa. I wish him well and hope that he enjoys his retirement, but the anti-Pelini pick was not the answer as the program has continued to spiral into obscurity. The lack of player development despite decent recruiting combined with a passivity and lack of intensity that has become contagious has made Nebraska football almost unrecognizable. Riley was a career .500 coach when hired and a loss to Iowa would leave his Husker record at 19-19. That won’t do in the Heartland.

As noted above, the offense managed to accrue 466 yards after having just 74 at halftime. Tanner Lee, who missed most of the practices this week going through the concussion protocol completes 26 of 41 passes for 399 yards and three touchdowns. He was under heavy pressure throughout, being sacked four times, but did not throw an interception and even managed a 6-yard scramble in the 3rd quarter. Lee’s 2,938 passing yards this season is the most ever for a first-year Husker. Lee needs 62 passing yards in next week’s season finale to post the fourth 3,000-yard passing season in school history.

Stanley Morgan, Jr (7 catches for 185 yards and a TD) set a career record in yards and added a 51-yard grab in the 3rd quarter to move the Huskers into the red zone. The total also marks the second-highest receiving game in school history, trailing only JD Spielman’s 200 receiving yards against Ohio State. He also set a Nebraska season record with his fifth 100-yard receiving game of the year. Morgan now has 54 receptions in 2017 to move to eighth on the NU single-season catch list. He also moved up to eighth on the Nebraska career receptions list with 112 catches. His season total of 912 receiving yards is just 30 yards shy of the single-season record and he is up to 6th on the Nebraska career receiving yards list with 1,169 career yards. JD Spielman (6 catches for 96 yards) played with a bad shoulder that he appeared to injure in the first quarter. His 31-yard grab at the 1-yard line set up a 4th quarter score. Spielman now has 55 grabs this season to extend his own freshman record and ranks him in a tie for 6th overall on the NU single-season chart. His 830 season receiving yards this season places him 7th on Nebraska’s single-season list. This is the first time in Nebraska school history that it has had a pair of 800-yard receivers in the same season. Tight end Tyler Hoppes (6 catches for 43 yards) now has 30 receptions this year and is two catches shy of Mike McNeill’s season tight end record of 32 grabs. De'Mornay Pierson-El (4 catches for 54 yards) and Jack Stoll (1 catch for 3 yards) added touchdown catches for the Cornhuskers,

Mikale Wilbon had 53 of the Huskers 67 rushing yards and scored twice. Devine Ozigbo added 12 yards and a score as the Husker rushing attack was again a non-entity, especially as they were down so far so early. Boe Wilson as a blocker in the backfield can move some bodies and assisted Wilbon over the goal line on his second score with a push.

The defense again played very poorly and missed tackles have become an epidemic problem. There were few highlights other than forcing two 3 and outs to start the 3rd quarter. Linebacker Marcus Newby led the Blackshirts with a career-high-tying 10 tackles, matching his 10 tackles against Northwestern and Oregon earlier this season. Newby now has over 100-career tackles. Fellow linebacker Chris Weber added six tackles and needs 12 tackles in next week’s season finale against Iowa to post the first 100-tackle season for a Husker since Zaire Anderson had 103 tackles in 2014. Both Newby and Weber allowed tight ends to score over them in the game. Mohamed Barry (7 tackles) seems to be playing a bit better and had a timely pass breakup. Alex Davis (3 tackles) and Carlos Davis (3 tackles) each had a sack in today’s game. Defensive back Lamar Jackson (4 tackles) had another rough game as he was burned repeatedly and when he did hit someone, it was late out of bounds.

Special teams helped keep the game from being worse than it was. A 1st quarter punt that bounced off a Lion was recovered by freshman Colin Miller at the Penn state 34-yard line and led to a field goal. The fumble recovery was the first for Nebraska since the Northern Illinois game (as hard as that is to believe). The ensuing PSU drive ended with a shanked punt of 18 yards that the offense converted to seven. Kicker Drew Brown made his 50th career start in today’s game and joins Alex Henery, Ralph Brown and his brother, Kris Brown, as the only Huskers to record 50+ starts. Brown’s 27-yard field goal in the first quarter marked his 17th consecutive made field goal made on the road and upped his career totals to 59 field goals and 353 points. Brown also had a successful onside kick at the end of the game that was recovered by De’Mornay Pierson-El and led to the Huskers final score. In the first half it appeared that the Husker player of the game would be punter Caleb Lightbourn (8 punts for a 42.4 average with two inside the 20) as six of his punts were before the break. With Jd Spielman’s shoulder being dinged, Jaylin Bradley returned 3 kickoffs for 81 yards.

As Nebraska drops to 4-7 on the season, the Huskers will miss a bowl game for just the third time since 1969. A loss next week to Iowa would give the Huskers their worst record since 1961. Ugly, ugly, ugly. Just when you think the Huskers futility can’t get any worse it does. But, what’s with the Iowa Hawkeyes? They lost by two points earlier in the season to Penn state, lost by seven to Michigan State, then throttled Ohio State 55-24, before losing 38-14 to Wisconsin, and then today fall to Purdue 24-15. I hope that today’s Iowa shows up next Saturday and not the Iowa that beat the Buckeyes. A Husker win would give Mike Riley a fine going away present. Go Big Red!!!

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    1. ThotDoc Nov 18, 2017
      The first paragraph that refers to infamous records should read "50+ points" and not yards. That really would be a record of note.