Nebraska vs. Penn State, 11/18/17

Penn State running back Saquon Barkley (26) tries to run away from Nebraska linebacker Marcus Newby (3) during the first half at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pa., on Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017.


It's HuskerExtra rewind time again. 

No. 10 Penn State rolled up 609 yards of offense and Nebraska scored 34 points in the final 21 minutes, 40 seconds Saturday night in the Nittany Lions' 56-44 win. Kind of a weird game all around, but most of the deciding factors came in the first half.

So, let's take a look. 

If you can find a more lopsided quarter of conference college football than Saturday’s second, I’d like to see it.

Watching the game live in Beaver Stadium or on television, it was plainly obvious that the Nittany Lions ran away with the game. A 28-0 quarter will do that.

With a little time to watch the tape and crunch the numbers, though… wow.

Just begin with the simple statistics.

PSU: 35 plays, 264 yards, 11:34 time of possession. 18 first downs. 18-of-23 passing. 5-of-5 third-down conversions.

NU: 12 plays, 3 yards, 3:26 time of possession. No first downs. 0-of-8 passing. 0-of-4 third-down conversions.

On top of that, the Huskers had 49 penalty yards on four infractions.

Everything Nebraska tried to do, the Nittany Lions had had answers for. They pressured Tanner Lee relentlessly. They found creative ways to get Saquon Barkley the ball in space. They let Trace McSorley run around and make plays.

NU defensive coordinator Bob Diaco talked about the frustration of getting PSU to third down and then not getting off the field. The five third-down plays, all conversions, in the second quarter are a good microcosm of the game.

On the first one, PSU was in third-and-10 because of their lone penalty of the quarter, a hold on a third-and-1 Barkley conversion. McSorley had plenty of time, let the slot receiver clear out under coverage and hit Saeed Blacknall for 22 yards in one-on-one coverage against Chris Jones. PSU drove down to the 8 but found itself in third-and-1. No matter, Barkley took a zone-read handoff, ripped past a tackle attempt by Dedrick Young and rumbled into the end zone for his third touchdown.

Then offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead started to mix it up.

On third-and-5 later in the frame, he flipped Barkley and McSorley, calling a zone-read play with Barkley playing quarterback. Barkley kept, made an explosive lateral cut to get outside of Marcus Newby and got 6. MoSorley threw a 15-yard touchdown on the next play to make it 35-0.

After another scoring drive on which PSU did not have a third down, they picked up two more in the final 51 seconds.

The first was a swing pass to Barkley – a concept that worked all night against NU – that he took and exploded straight ahead for 24 yards. Then, on the last play of the quarter, the Huskers rushed three. McSorley felt pressure, ran around, escaped to the right and hit DaeShaun Hamilton for 14 yards. It was empty yardage at the end of an explosive quarter, but it was still an example of the Nittany Lions taking whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted.

Meanwhile, the Huskers offense just had nothing going.

Here are their four drives:

Three plays, 4 yards, 55 seconds

Three, 0, :23

Three, 6, 1:26

Three, minus-7, :28

Lee was hit several times and when he wasn’t, he was out of rhythm. He tripped over his own feet on a third-and-6, then appeared to feel pressure and throw low for JD Spielman. He was sacked by most of the PSU defensive line at the same time on NU’s final play of the quarter.

Lee put on a show in three quarters of the game. In the second, though, he – and everybody else – had nothing going.

Other brief observations:

* Barkley’s 65-yard touchdown run in the first quarter came on a split-zone call – a Moorhead staple. He made a signature jump cut to get to the left side of the formation. He decided, cut and exploded upfield faster than Kieron Williams could react. He’s done that to a lot of people.

The interesting part: Mikale Wilbon’s 24-yard touchdown run in the second half came on the same play. Split-zone looks a lot like NU’s typical inside zone, except it involves a tight end moving across the formation to change the numbers and make the defensive front’s read tougher.

* Junior safety Aaron Williams makes a huge difference on the defense. When he’s on the field, NU has a chance.

* Redshirt freshman Boe Wilson had another good block wearing No. 46 in NU’s jumbo package. He turned a linebacker out and cleared the way for Devine Ozigbo’s 1-yard touchdown run early in the game.

* Penn State nearly blocked at least three Caleb Lightbourn punts. The sophomore some how got every attempt off and had a good night, netting 42.4 on eight attempts, with a long of 53 and two inside the 20.

* Lee continues to impress with his ability to throw with defenders closing in and still deliver the ball. It was a gutsy performance from No. 13. Of course, game situation dictates some of this, but 19-of-22 for 327 and three touchdowns is pretty impressive regardless of how much the Nittany Lions were up.

* In PSU’s first-half passing game, Moorhead and McSorley picked on NU’s boundary side and cornerback Lamar Jackson over and over.

* Freshman running back Jaylin Bradley looks like he has promise as a kick returner. After JD Spielman took a hard shot on his shoulder early on and Bradley took over as a returner, even though Spielman kept playing. Bradley averaged 27 on three returns and had a long of 31. Good feel for a young guy and good speed.

* Junior wide receiver Stanley Morgan's one-handed touchdown catch in the fourth quarter. Wow. Morgan needs 88 yards against Iowa to become the first 1,000-yard receiver in school history. The bet here is he gets it. 

* On Drew Brown's onside kick late in the game, De'Mornay Pierson-El slipped right in front of PSU receiver Juwan Johnson and the ball bounced right to him. 

* Freshman tackle Brenden Jaimes went down late in the second quarter and trainers appeared to be looking at his left knee, but he was back in the game in the second half.

* Junior running back Devine Ozigbo got rolled up on from behind in the third quarter and limped off. He did not return.

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Contact the writer at or 402-473-7439. On Twitter @HuskerExtraPG.


Sports writer

Parker joined the Journal Star as the University of Nebraska football beat writer in August 2017. He previously covered Montana State athletics for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle and graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 2012.

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