STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Tanner Lee took a few drop steps and fired the football through steady rain in warmups at Beaver Stadium on Saturday.
He was ready to go.
Nebraska’s quarterback returned after he was knocked from the team’s previous game. He spent most of the days in concussion protocol that shortened his preparation time leading up to the Huskers’ game against No. 13 Penn State.
As a cold, soggy day turned into early evening, Lee heated up, proving he’d paid attention all week even though he got few, if any, reps in practice.
Lee completed 26 of 41 passes for 399 yards and three touchdowns to help his team claw back into a game they trailed 42-10 at halftime. Penn State won 56-44, however, in a game made much closer as Lee picked apart Penn State's reserve secondary.
“Tanner’s one of the strongest, toughest guys that we have on our team,” guard Jerald Foster said. “That second half was Tanner really leading us forward. He was behind the offensive line, wanted us to keep running the ball and keep grinding, and that’s what we did.”
Nebraska led 10-7 in the first quarter but managed just 7 yards of offense the rest of the half.
But Lee, who was under pressure for most of the first two quarters, was far from finished.
“They have a ton of pressure looks and I think he, for the most part, was pretty right on with what was going on,” offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf said. “He didn’t have time, a couple of times, to play like you want to. I thought he stayed with it and had a really nice second half. He spread the ball around well, threw on time and he just kept playing.”
He threw for 372 yards in the second half and led touchdown drives on five of Nebraska’s seven second-half possessions, with four of them going for 75 yards or more.
Lee had help from his top two wideouts, too.
Stanley Morgan caught seven passes for 185 yards and a touchdown and JD Spielman added six catches for 96 yards.
Lee fired a 22-yard scoring pass to De'Mornay Pierson-El in the third quarter, cutting Penn State’s lead to 42-24.
Although a 17-yard touchdown pass by Penn State's Trace McSorley a few minutes later restored the 25-point lead, Lee kept firing.
He hooked up with Morgan again for an 8-yard score and hit Jack Stoll from 3 yards out to cap the scoring as time expired.
“I think we were having a tough time getting in a rhythm,” Lee said. “A lot of it was we were playing a good team, giving us a lot of different looks and pressures. They made it tough on us. It was frustrating to not get something going and put more points on the board early.”