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Report Card: Penn State Nittany Lions 56, Huskers 44

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The score wasn’t indicative of how bad this game really was.

NCAA Football: Nebraska at Penn State
It’s that kind of season.
Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

This one ended being one of those games where the final score wasn’t really representative of the game. Penn State cleared their bench and the Huskers scored three touchdowns in the closing minutes, making an epic beatdown look like a surprisingly competitive game. In fact, after Nebraska recovered an onside kick with two minutes left, I started to actually consider ways that Nebraska could actually win the damn game. Of course, that was just a false hope because Mike Riley doesn’t mess around with clock management; he’s only going to use timeouts to savor a beating by Minnesota. (Certainly not to pull off something like a Plano East comeback against John Tyler High.)

This game more closely resembled the Oregon game, where the Huskers got massacred in the first half, played better in the third quarter and actually looked competitive in the fourth. But let’s not overreact to the comeback; it was against the subs. Penn State’s star running back Saquon Barkley didn’t touch the ball in the fourth quarter, and quarterback Trace McSorley only threw two passes. So let’s not get too excited about that fourth quarter, except to say this:

There’s a lot of things wrong with this Nebraska football team. They don’t really play good football, and frequently, not even mediocre football. They struggle with the basics: blocking, tackling and assignments, and because of that, they also play tentative. But one thing they HAVEN’T done is give up. It’s easy to think that they have, when you see Minnesota hang 54 on the Big Red and then see Penn State hang 42 in the first half. (Row the boat, then race the boat. Sigh.)

The second half of the Penn State game proves that, for whatever reason, this team is still trying. There’s pride there. It’s badly wounded pride. They are confused, badly coached and poorly prepared. But they are still trying; they didn’t give up.

And that’s something that the next coaching staff can build on. The preparation and coaching are things that can be corrected. The pride in the heart of Nebraska football is still there. Battered and bruised, yes. But it’s still beating.

With that, it’s on to this week’s report card. As always, your feedback is welcome in the comments.

QB: Tanner Lee had a great second half. If you were grading by quarters, he’d get an A or A+ for the third quarter and a solid A for the fourth. But an awful second quarter (0 for 8 passing) and a sketchy first quarter (nearly throwing two interceptions) drags his grade down. I’m not sure where Lee might fit into Nebraska’s offense next season, so you have to wonder if he’ll look at his options as a graduate transfer. I see some people started talking NFL again; for his sake, just STOP IT. If he’s going to play at the next level, he needs more game action against live defenses and hoping that defenders keep dropping his mistakes. Because at the next level, they won’t. Grade: B-

I-Back: I thought Mikale Wilbon had a good second half; I wonder what he and Jaylin Bradley can do next season in a modern offense with a competent offensive line. Devine Ozigbo wasn’t particularly effective all day; on the play he got injured, he whiffed on a block. Grade: C

Wide Receivers: Saquon Barkley will probably win it, but Stanley Morgan will get some consideration for offensive Big Ten player of the week honors. His first catch might have been his best, leaping high to snare a pass that was probably thrown three feet over his head. De’Mornay Pierson-El and J.D. Spielman also played well, though Spielman and tight end Tyler Hoppes once again were caught running third down routes short of the first down marker. Grade: A

Offensive Line: By my count, Mike Cavanaugh’s group was flagged five times for penalties. (So much for Cavanaugh’s emphasis on technique.) They play sloppy and simply can’t make a block to save their quarterback’s life. It’s hard to believe how far Nick Gates has regressed as he spends more and more time under Cavanaugh. (He was third team all-Big Ten as a freshman.) Grade: F

Defensive Line: Other than sack by Carlos Davis, there was very little accomplished up front. Grade: F

Linebacker: Marcus Newby might have been out of position a little less often than everybody else. I have no idea what Bob Diaco was thinking in asking Chris Weber to play the deep safety on that fourth quarter touchdown pass. Grade: F

Secondary: Hopefully the next secondary coach can straighten out Lamar Jackson; it’s something that both Brian Stewart and Donte Williams have failed to figure out. Grade: F

Overall: F The offense had it’s moments in the second half, but was awful in the first half. The less we say about the defense, the better for everyone’s blood pressure and sanity.

Poll

Grade the Huskers for their performance against Penn State

This poll is closed

  • 1%
    A We’re old Big 8/12 foes. Love to see Nebraska getting their just desserts.
    (20 votes)
  • 0%
    B We’re Big Ten west fans. We like seeing Nebraska lose, just not this badly, because we like having Husker fans buy our tickets.
    (7 votes)
  • 3%
    C I didn’t watch; I just saw that while Nebraska gave up 56 points, they only lost by 12.
    (51 votes)
  • 14%
    D Hot and cold offense, bad defense.
    (203 votes)
  • 38%
    F Failure everywhere. Firings are overdue.
    (527 votes)
  • 40%
    0 Wake me up when the new head coach is hired.
    (557 votes)
1365 votes total Vote Now

Elsewhere in College Football

Iowa F Purdue’s Jeff Brohm is now the new Mayor of Woodshed, IA. It’s almost like the Squawkeyes declared “we’re good now” after reaching bowl eligibility against Ohio State.

Minnesota F Remember how Demry Croft thrashed the Blackshirts last week? Against Northwestern, he rushed for -17 yards and threw more interceptions (3) than completions (2).

Central Florida: A The 11-0 Fighting Frosties weren’t distracted by the cold weather, an upcoming Friday battle with South Florida, a possible New Years Six bowl bid and the fact that Scott Frost has been mentioned as a candidate for at least four different jobs, a couple of which aren’t even officially open yet.