Tell me if you've heard this before: Nebraska has a couple of critical turnovers in the game, but rallies late to win the game. Again. Turnovers still are the bugaboo of this program; earlier this season, it seemed better, but now it's not. Some say it's systematic, though I'm not sure I completely agree. Some of the things this offense does make in the option game makes turnovers more likely to occur, but much of this season's problems can be explained on youth and inexperience.
But something else is very real: the gritty, gutty determination to overcome whatever adversity comes their way cannot be denied. Critics can merely dismiss it and choose to maintain their blindness to it. Their ignorance is simply glaring, as it's this program just doesn't give up. This is one mentally strong program.
And the adversity this program faces is very much real. The truly ignorant will dismiss it as an excuse. But the reality is that Bo Pelini and his coaching staff are trying whatever they can do to field a competitive football team from whomever is eligible to play. On Pat Smith's game winning field goal attempt, here's who was trying to block: Senior walk-on Brandon Chapek, who's spent his entire career on the scout team. Sophomore Givens Price, who wasn't anywhere to be found on the two-deep roster a month ago. And freshman defensive tackle Vincent Valentine. Not only are the starters out, but many of the backups are as well.
This team just keeps on battling and trying to overcome adversity. If you can't appreciate that and find satisfaction in that, well, I feel sorry for you. Now onto this week's report card:
QB: Tommy Armstrong started and looked really ineffective in three series, and gave way to Ron Kellogg III, who played pretty darn well. The bad was that fumble while being sacked in the third quarter. The good was being efficient throwing the ball and making some nice audibles into option plays. And executing the darn things. Frankly, even if Armstrong's ankle is better on Friday, Kellogg deserves the start on senior day. Grade: B
RB: Ameer Abdullah might have locked up a first team all-B1G award this week. If it wasn't for that bogus unnecessary roughness penalty on Sam Burtch, he'd be fifth nationally in rushing. As it stands, he's sixth with 1,483 yards which still leads the B1G. And he did it on a bum ankle as well. I didn't mind breaking out the wildcat formation on the goal line. I wouldn't let Abdullah's fumble slow down that wrinkle in the NU offense. Imani Cross also had a decent game with eight carries for 31 yards. Grade: A
WR: Not sure how recovered Kenny Bell is, but he was good enough to return a kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown, complete with a hurdle of Sam Ficken to ensure he got coast to coast. Jordan Westerkamp had an impressive afternoon receiving, and was solid fielding punts with absolutely no help. Yes, that's something that desperately needs to be fixed, but probably not until the bowl game or next season unfortunately. Even Cethan Carter and Jake Long pulled in catches. Sam Burtch shouldn't have been flagged for a personal foul, but his block probably wasn't necessary either. Grade: B
OL: This mash unit had a decent, if not unspectacular day. Frankly, considering all the guys playing out of position or for the first time in meaningful situations, I'm surprised there weren't more penalties. Speaking of which, I'm still trying to figure out what Givens Price did to warrant a five yard flag in overtime. (Didn't matter to Pat Smith...) Grade: C+
DL: Early on, the defensive line was getting beat badly by Penn State's offensive line as Zach Zwinak easily broke through to the second level. I did see some good things from Maliek Collins, though. It was a bad matchup for Randy Gregory, who'll have to put some weight back on to improve his ability to stop the run. Grade: C-
LB: It was a frustrating day for the linebackers trying to pursue Christian Hackenberg, who was much more mobile than I expected. Or at least he didn't hesitate to get to the edge on the rollout. Decent coverage much of the day on the tight ends. I would have liked to see a little more aggressive approach to stopping Penn State, though. Grade: C+
Secondary: Ciante Evans played like a warrior despite an injured shoulder. Stanley Jean-Baptiste did a fairly good job trying to cover Allen Robinson. Corey Cooper didn't have one of his better games; on that Jesse James long touchdown run, he definitely missed a chance to make a play. Pelini said after the game that Cooper wasn't sure he was out of bounds and didn't want to get a late hit call by hitting more forcefully. LeRoy Alexander seemed to have a good game and was one of the few Huskers able to truck Zwinak. Grade: B
Overall: B- Hold onto the ball, and Nebraska probably wins this game by 10-14 points. Of course, if Penn State's Sam Ficken could have made a couple of kicks, Nebraska might have lost. (And if that would have happened, how outraged would Husker fans be over that Burtch "penalty"?)
Elsewhere in College Football
Baylor: F Five years ago, a 49-17 loss to Oklahoma State would have been a typical game for the Bears. Only difference would be that it would have been Bill Land and Artie Gigantino calling the game on FSN regionally instead of Brent Musberger and Kirk Herbstreit and a national ABC primetime broadcast. Sometimes the more things change, the more things stay the same.
Florida: 0 Ummm....a 1-AA team came into the Swamp, failed to complete a forward pass....and won 26-20. And now Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley's "vote of confidence" is rendered null and void. Speaking of which, all those members of the Omaha media who tried to blame Shawn Eichorst's silence for this alleged "Bo Pelini Hot Seat" will have to find a new narrative this week. And with Thanksgiving on Thursday, they'll have less time to drive this topic.
Oregon: F All that ridiculous "Scott Frost in 2014" talk is finally over.
Kansas: 0 The post-game party from the West Virginia victory went an entire week...and ended abruptly when the Jayhawks took the field in Ames. The Cyclones racked up 502 yards of offense and won 34-0. Remember when Charlie Weis was considered an offensive genius? Bwahaha. Beakers, your apology letter to Turner Gill is a overdue.