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With no raucous crowd to rattle sophomore quarterback Will Levis, Penn State was able to push down the field twice late in the fourth quarter.

But when the field shrank, so too did the Nittany Lions' ability to execute.

Down a touchdown, Penn State had two chances to tie Saturday's game against Nebraska and had the Blackshirts on their heels, reaching the Husker 11-yard line on one drive and the 9 on the next.



But those two red-zone trips netted zero points, and Penn State still has zero wins following a 30-23 loss to the Huskers at Memorial Stadium.

Penn State coach James Franklin pointed to the turnovers on offense, and he was reminded multiple times during his postgame Zoom media session of his team's slow starts.

Yet, his Nittany Lions (0-4) had opportunities late.

"Red-zone offense is about running the ball and being detailed in the passing game," Franklin said. "All the windows are shrunk down, so it magnifies it. It magnifies it if you're good in the red zone in a passing offense, and it magnifies it if you've got some things to work on."

After reaching the NU 11 behind a combination of running and passing plays, Levis misfired on four straight passes, including a fourth-down pass that was broken up by Marquel Dismuke with 3 minutes, 37 seconds remaining.

Penn State got new life after forcing a three-and-out, and marched back toward South Stadium. With four shots at the end zone from the Husker 9, Levis threw two incomplete passes, was sacked on third down and pressured on fourth down, which resulted in another incompletion.

Running backs Devyn Ford, Caziah Holmes and Keyvone Lee did not touch the ball during those eight plays, nor did PSU take advantage of Levis' legs (he finished with 61 rushing yards).

"We didn't make enough plays," Franklin said. "We didn't put the ball in position where our guy had a legitimate chance to get it, or you're going to get the PI (pass interference), so we've got to clean those things up."

Like the finish, the start for the Nittany Lions was shaky, too.

They've been outscored 93-26 in the first half this season, and opponents have combined for 11 scoring drives in that stretch.

Turnovers (two by starting QB Sean Clifford) and the lack of an early running game didn't help, Franklin said.

"It's hard to get into a rhythm, it's hard to get into a groove, it's hard to call when you don't have the confidence that you're not going to turn the ball over," he said.

Defensively, teams have scripted well on the opening drive against the Nittany Lions, and Nebraska was no different, charging down the field in 11 plays.

"I thought they played a consistent game for four quarters, which isn't what we did," Franklin said of the Huskers.

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Reach Clark Grell at 402-473-2639 or cgrell@journalstar.com. On Twitter at @LJSSportsGrell.