Nebraska vs. Minnesota, 11/11/17

Nebraska quarterback Tanner Lee (13) gets the pass off as tight end Tyler Hoppes (88) tries to keep Minnesota defensive end Nate Umior away during the first half Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

KAYLA WOLF, Journal Star

As if facing Penn State wasn't difficult enough already, Nebraska may be without its starting quarterback.

Tanner Lee's availability for Saturday's road game against the 13th-ranked Nittany Lions is unknown, Mike Riley announced Monday.

The Nebraska third-year head coach said Lee, a junior transfer, is in concussion protocol following Saturday's 54-21 loss at Minnesota. A defender fell on Lee's head right before halftime, the coach said.

Lee missed the entire second half against the Golden Gophers because of what coaches called an "impact migraine." Redshirt freshman Patrick O'Brien stepped in, and he'll be taking first-team repetitions this week as the Huskers prepare for the Nittany Lions (8-2, 5-2 Big Ten).

As for Lee, he won't take any practice repetitions early in the week.

"Obviously, he's played a lot," Riley said of the Tulane transfer. "A decision about him can be made later when cleared, if in time (for the game). But at the same time, we are today practicing Patrick O'Brien as if he's going to start. That really fits because Tanner won't be able to do anything anyway."

O'Brien, playing in his first extensive action of his career, was 12-for-18 for 137 yards against Minnesota's 10th-ranked pass defense. He entered the game with Nebraska trailing 30-14 to begin the second half.

"I was proud of Patrick, actually," Riley said. "It was his first significant time. It's a horrible time to have to play in a game where you're just passing almost all the time. They're teeing off with blitzes and rushes, so we get too much pressure.

"But I thought he hung in there. He made some beautiful throws and appeared to have a lot of poise. I was impressed with that. Everybody can see he's got a big-time arm and can make some of those big throws."

If Lee is unable to play Saturday, walk-on Andrew Bunch will step in as the backup quarterback to help preserve Tristan Gebbia's redshirt.

Riley, of course, possesses ample respect for the challenge that awaits his team in State College, Pennsylvania.

"I think you all know, Penn State is a very good football team all-around, with a great runner," Riley said of Saquon Barkley. "I really like the quarterback (Trace McSorley). I think he's a great fit for what they do, and their defense is physical, lots of movement.

"We'll have our work cut out for us for sure."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraSip.

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Husker columnist

Steven, a lifelong Nebraskan, newspaper enthusiast and UNL grad, joined the Journal Star in 1990 and has covered NU football since 1995.

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