STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — As Penn State’s offense marched down the field over and over against Nebraska’s defense during the second quarter Saturday night at Beaver Stadium, defensive coordinator Bob Diaco’s group took the brunt of the blame for a game quickly slipping out of reach.
Offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf, though, couldn’t get past his unit’s inability to help turn the tide in a 28-0 frame that, for all intents and purposes, decided the game.
“We went cold for a good quarter,” Langsdorf said. “We couldn’t protect very well, we didn’t run, didn’t complete many balls. It was a bad quarter.”
In fact, after putting 10 points on the board in their first three drives, the Huskers failed to get a first down between the final 2 minutes, 31 seconds of the first quarter and the 10-minute mark of the third.
In that stretch: six three-and-outs, 16 yards on 18 plays and a 5-yard penalty.
“I didn’t think we could do much of anything at the time,” Langsdorf said. “That second quarter was really glaring.”
Lee missed all eight of his second-quarter attempts and the Huskers went from trailing 14-10 to trailing 42-10.
The Huskers scored 34 points in the final 21:40 thanks to 389 second-half yards. Lee hit 19 of 22 passes for 327 yards and three scores down the stretch; the running game, while not great, managed 65 on 15 second-half carries.
“I thought we executed better,” Langdorf said. “We didn’t change a bunch of stuff at halftime. We ran what we had for the game plan and blocked better and threw more accurately and made some plays.”
Bowl game chance gone, Weber wants Iowa: Senior linebacker Chris Weber recently said a bowl game trip would “mean everything” to him.
A fifth loss in six games, though, all but eliminates the Huskers from a chance to play past Friday’s home game against Iowa.
“It’s really disappointing,” Weber said. “That’s what we wanted to do is obviously go to a bowl game and it looks like that’s not going to happen. Really, then, Iowa is our bowl game in a sense. We’ve got to put everything we have into this game to come out of there with a win.
“I want to go out with a win and all of these other seniors do, too.”
Morgan closing in on milestone: Nebraska junior receiver Stanley Morgan said it wasn’t a goal to reach 1,000 receiving yards this season.
“My goal is always just to play my hardest and give it my all,” he said.
His approach is working. With seven receptions for a career-high 185 yards Saturday, he is only 88 yards from becoming the first player in school history with 1,000 receiving yards in a season.
He now has 54 receptions for 912 yards, just 30 from Johnny Rodgers’ single-season record set in 1972.
“It’s one of those things you take it and look back on it — like yeah, I did that,” Morgan said of potentially catching Rodgers.
“Still, we have to keep fighting to get some wins on the board,” Morgan added.
The 6-foot-1, 195-pound Morgan last season had 33 receptions for 453 yards and two touchdowns.
“I’m blessed to be here,” he said. “Back home (in New Orleans), there aren’t many opportunities for a man like me. I’m blessed to be here every day playing, no matter the score, no matter the situation.”
No NFL talk for Lee: Mike Riley has not talked to Tanner Lee about the possibility of jumping to the NFL after this season.
Lee, a fifth-year junior, has NFL-level talent, Riley said. But he said that it would be great for Lee to play another year in college.
"But as far as what he's got, he's definitely a prospect," Riley said.
Riley appreciated how well Lee responded to the rough early stages of Saturday’s game.
"He stayed with it. The guys stayed with it. He made a ton of really good throws under pressure," Riley said. "I think he's a really good player who's going to get better."
Jackson says stability important for growth: Sophomore cornerback Lamar Jackson and the Husker secondary have taken their fair share of lumps this season.
After Saturday's loss, he was asked if he still believed in the teachings of defensive coordinator Bob Diaco.
“I’m a player for the University of Nebraska,” he said. “Whoever they’ve got coordinating and calling the plays, I’m going to respect them and do my job. If I don’t agree, I don’t have too much to say. That’s what they get paid the big bucks for is to set up the scheme and put us in positions to win. I just do what I can do and play to the best of my ability.”
That may not sound like a ringing endorsement, but Jackson assured that he understands the position the first-year coordinator is in.
“It’s a lot moving parts and a lot of new coaches this year,” he said. “Even Coach Diaco, it’s his first year here and he hasn’t even got to recruit a recruiting class. He’s basically made a whole lot of players from another scheme fit his scheme. I feel like we’ve just got to keep building.
“I feel like stability is key. Of course, all of that stuff is above our heads and stuff like that, but I feel like stability and people buying into the process (are important).”
Knevel makes start, then shuffles: As head coach Mike Riley indicated Thursday, senior David Knevel returned to the offensive line by starting at right guard.
Knevel hadn’t played on offense since the season-opener, when he suffered a high ankle sprain and a stress fracture in his foot.
When freshman right tackle Brenden Jaimes went down with an injury in the third quarter, though, Knevel moved back to right tackle — his original position — and redshirt freshman Matt Farniok stepped in at right guard.
Jaimes returned to the game in the fourth quarter.
— Parker Gabriel and Steven M. Sipple