World-Herald staff writer Jon Nyatawa breaks down the Huskers’ play on both sides of the ball during NU’s 23-20 overtime win at Penn State.
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TRACKING THE OFFENSE
The game plan: The Huskers went with the power run game early, trying their best to take control of the line of scrimmage. But there appeared to be just too many bodies. Ameer Abdullah and Imani Cross couldn’t find much room, and there wasn’t enough of a pass threat early to keep Penn State off balance. Nebraska apparently wanted to be extra conservative through the air with Tommy Armstrong.
The adjustments: The Huskers called on Ron Kellogg, who entered and immediately started hurling darts around the field. Kellogg’s ability to exploit Penn State’s run-first defensive approach seemed to loosen up the Nittany Lions, which created more openings in the ground game. But there were some drops, a couple of very costly fumbles, several blocking busts and a few painful penalties.
NU star: Kellogg. He came off the bench and completed 20 of his 34 passes to eight receivers, totaling 191 yards and a touchdown.
Stat of the game: Not including sacks or Abdullah’s 50-yard scamper in the fourth quarter, Nebraska averaged 3.7 yards per carry. Yards were tough to come by.
Final word: It’s not how you’d draw it up. Offensive coordinator Tim Beck looked completely drained after the game. But somehow, with the unit missing half its starters, NU’s offense did enough.
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TRACKING THE DEFENSE
The game plan: Nebraska’s linebackers and safeties crashed downhill to try to fill running lanes as Penn State ran zone stretch plays with a cutback option. The Huskers were ready for the wide receiver screen plays that PSU relies heavily on. But they didn’t blitz much. They struggled at times to slow the ground game in the first quarter, which made the Nittany Lions’ play-action pass plays a little more effective.
The adjustments: The Huskers’ defensive line started plugging up holes. The Penn State offense might have aided NU a bit by not sticking with its rush attack. At least for a while. The Nittany Lions saved a couple of wrinkles for late in the game, using misdirection to isolate their skilled tight ends in space. But mostly, the NU D-line seemed to control the point of attack.
NU star: Ciante Evans. Right after Penn State snatched some momentum with a 43-yard pass, the senior tipped a pass to himself for an interception along the sideline. The turnover set up a Nebraska field goal.
Stat of the game: Penn State converted just two of its 14 third-down attempts.
Final word: It’s hard to fathom that this group of defenders gave up 602 yards to Wyoming on opening night. Quite a turnaround.