18 Observations: Penn State

Bo Pelini (Stewart Photography)

Nebraska recorded their fourth second half comeback of the season on Saturday. Come inside as BRR publisher Josh Harvey gives you his observations from Saturday's contest.

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1.) Talk about a salty defensive effort in the second half. Did you know Nebraska only allowed three points in the second half? It was one of those things that probably went unnoticed by some because of the offense's sudden ability to find the end zone, but Nebraska outscored Penn State 26-3 in the second half.

"We made it more basic for us so we could attack the hurry up," said senior defensive end Cameron Meredith. "It helped us out a lot especially at halftime.

"Halftime is everything. Adjustments we make throughout the game, but halftime is when we draw it up on the board and figure out what is going on both player and coach wise. I feel we adjusted well at half."

2.) I'm so excited for the future of the running back position. Nebraska sophomore Ameer Abdullah has five starts this season in place of senior running back Rex Burkhead – in all five starts he has more than 100 yards. The Alabama native rushed 31 times for 116 yards against Penn State – probably would be a good idea to get him some rest on Monday.


Courtesy of Huskers.com

Abdullah also accomplished another milestone over the weekend - he reached 1,000 yards in his career, becoming the 60th Husker to accomplish the feat.

Remember when there was doubts about him being a featured back because of fumble issues?

3.) More reason to be excited. Imani Cross had eight carries in Saturday's contest. Now he only rushed for 2.8 yards per carry, so that wasn't the impressive part. His two touchdowns weren't really even the thing that stood out to me. What was most impressive was the coaches willingness to trust him around the goal line and late in the fourth quarter.

Cross was asked after the game if he felt the coaching staff had more trust in him now than compared to a couple weeks ago.

"I don't know if I would say it's more of a trust factor, but I think it's what I display in practice. I take practice very seriously," said Cross. "I think when you display stuff in practice, it carries over to the game."

Imani Cross

4.) Don't forget about Heard. The most heralded running back of the three coming out of high school, sophomore Braylon Heard registered three carries for 25 yards. While the Ohio native's chances have been limited, he produces when he is in – he's even been nicknamed first down by some.

"100 percent Braylon is a lot better than 92 percent Ameer, so anytime we can get fresh guys in there is always good," said Abdullah. "I'm still hoping he gets more snaps."

5.) Nebraska fans classy as always. As Penn State FOX Sports NEXT publisher Mark Brennan was walking through the visiting tunnel with Penn State players coming off the field, he said Nebraska fans were cheering and encouraging the Nittany Lion players. Comments of: "Good job PSU." and "keep your head up Penn State," were screamed by clapping fans. Nebraska has one of the best fan bases in the nation when it comes to sportsmanship and it's always good to hear it from visiting media.

6.) Reed has a milestone of his own. It has been a really long time since we saw a moment where Kyler Reed looked like he was going to take one to the house. I thought he just might on that 60-yard pass to him in the fourth quarter. He tried to put on the jets, but a defensive back caught him – no shame in that.

With the catch the senior became just the fifth tight end ever to reach 1,000 yards in his career, a milestone didn't even realize when asked about it after the game.

7.) Maybe Turner's TD against MSU did create a spark. All week I haven't been buying into the hoopla that Jamal Turner was a different player after catching a game winning touchdown against the Spartans. I just didn't necessarily feel that anything was going to be different, but maybe I was wrong.

Turner had two big catches on Saturday, including a touchdown on another great route. Taylor Martinez is looking for him and it's just going to force defensive coordinators to adjust.

The second year wide receiver still needs to do a better job getting up field. He dances too often. It might have worked at the high school level, but in B1G football it's not accomplishing much. It might be one of the biggest things from keeping him off the field on punt and kick returns. Just get north and south as my grandpa, a former high school head coach would say.

7.) Probably a touchdown, but the refs got it right. Here is the deal. When I saw it live from the press box, I thought it was a fumble. I quickly looked up to the TV screen, which features a delay, and once again I thought it was a fumble. But when the instant replay happened, I changed my tune. But Bo Pelini had it right. You gotta stick with the call on the field, and that's why it wasn't overturned.

"I know one thing that helps you in that situation is how they called it on the field," said Pelini. "You have to have indisputable evidence to overrule it, and something that is that bang-bang usually ends up going how they ruled it on the field. We were kind of fortunate that they called it that way out there on the field."

8.) Really Penn State reporter? So one media member felt it was his job to ask Penn State head coach Bill O'Brien if there might be a conspiracy – maybe the Big Ten wants PSU to lose.

O'Brien handled it pretty well.

"We don't feel like anyone is out to get us, we are just trying to figure out how to score on offense, and stop people on defense, and be good on special teams," said O'Brien. "We need the fans of Penn State to stick with us. This football team stuck with Penn State, and we need the fans of Penn State to stick with us at the Indiana game and the Wisconsin game."

9.) You are better than that McGloin. Same play, different quote.

"We're not going to get that call here. We're not going to get that call ever, actually, against any team. It doesn't matter who the refs are. That's the way it is,"said McGloin. He was then asked why that was the case?

"Why do you think? That's the way it is, man. Write what you think," said the senior quarterback.

10.) Maher had a good day, despite very minor blunder. The senior kicker would be the first one to tell people his season has had it's ups and downs. To me, it seems like it's a case of the snowball effect. When Maher struggles, it's multiple mistakes in a game. When he's on, he's on.

Today was one of those days where he was really good. I was on the field during pre-game and with the last 6:00 minutes on the clock. It was windy. I mean really windy. Storm fronts were coming in and it's raining as I type this right now. Maher wasn't fazed by it. He drilled all three field goals – even if they were chip shots.

But the most impressive kick was his punt in the fourth quarter that pinned Penn State deep – really deep – deep enough where two plays later Nebraska forced Matt McGloin into an intentional grounding penalty and a safety. You know the kick I'm talking about. Yeah, he might have had the wind to his back, but a 69-yarder in that situation was exactly what Nebraska needed.

"I was just trying to help the team out and put them in a good position," said Maher. "Our defense was playing well the whole second half, and we were just trying to pin them deep. It ended up being a pretty big play in the game.

I know some might want to point out the 16-yard punt, but it was a situation where the wind was swirling so much, the senior just tried to do too much.

"You can't dwell on what happened in the past. This was probably the toughest conditions I have ever kicked in, so it was just a time when you had to control what you could control," said Maher after the game.

Brett Maher

11.) Not this week. Every week I have multiple paragraphs devoted to quarterback Taylor Martinez. This week, he just get a thumbs up and a good job.

12.) I know it will be talked about. But it sounds like the defense being fired up late in the first half (with maybe a little yelling), was just an issue of the play not being called in fast enough.

"They were pissed. With the tempo we were trying to get a call in and we didn't get the call in time for them to execute the defense we wanted them to call, so half of them were playing one defense and half the other," said defensive coordinator John Papuchis. "And that's obviously the issue that tempo can force you to have.

"The second half, we just said, 'if they are going fast and you don't feel comfortable with what we are calling, you just go do your auto-check and play from there.' Maybe we should have done it earlier, but we didn't want to have Penn State dictate what defense we were running because they were playing fast."

A lot will be made about what was seen on TV or what fans saw from the stands, but it sounds like it was nothing more than a family trying to all get on the same page. Every once in a while there is some elevated voices.

13.) I tried to not include anything about a double-digit comeback in this observation piece, but it was just too tough. The Huskers have produced four second half double-digit comebacks this season. According to Nebraska sports information, that leads the nation.

Is that a good or bad stat to have?

"I wouldn't call it fun, because some people get scared, but we're kind of used to it," said cornerback Ciante Evans. "It's almost a habit since we do it week in and week out. We all believe in each other so we go out and do it again."

14.) If Nebraska wins at home next week, it will be the first time they went undefeated at home since 2001.

15.) Maybe Nebraska strength and conditioning coach James Dobson deserves a raise? It's the question Pauchis posed after the win. It does seem like Nebraska is just plain stronger than a lot of teams late in the game.

16.) Maybe it's time to try someone new. Marlowe's been really banged up and well, the last few weeks he hasn't been the most solid punt returner.

17.) Nebraska won the turnover battle. It's been a while since I could say that.

"It was big. We talked about it all week and going into the game that this team was very good at the takeaway and the turnover differential," said Pelini when asked about the season-high three forced. "We needed to win that phase and we did. Obviously that helped us win the game."

18.) Hey Armstrong, no cheering in the press box. From the very beginning of my career, I was taught the press box is a working environment - no cheering. Now this isn't always the case, actually more and more it seems like it's not the case. It's actually one of those hot button topics that upsets me a little bit. As a Nebraska reporter, of course I want to see them do well, but you won't find me cheering or pounding the table in celebration when something solid happens.

In the Nebraska press box, there are three rows. I, along with a lot of the other online media, sit in the second row. It's the perfect seat. We are at a great angle that we can see the entire field and see the TVs for replay.

Sitting behind us in the third row are Nebraska fans of some sort. I don't know if they are donors or friends of the program, but I think the general understanding is among them that they aren't supposed to cheer.

Of course that happens all the time. Not that big of a deal. But on Saturday, when Daimion Stafford notches an INT, someone screamed, "that's what I'm talking about, YES."

It was loud, really loud. And I thought to myself, that's just a bit unacceptable.

I turn around to see who it was and just had to smile. Mr. Future himself, Tommy Armstrong was sitting in the third row. Every once in a while they will stick a rehabbing player up there to see the game better. I could tell he was slightly embarrassed for his outburst, but my annoyance level dropped significantly after finding out who was guilty.

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