|Nebraska 18, Penn State 10|
|September 13, 2003|
|Memorial Stadium - Lincoln, NE|
|Kickoff Time: 8:08 p.m. EDT|
|LINCOLN, Neb. - The
game between Penn State and Nebraska last night should have been televised
in black and white. It should have been played in a stadium with wooden
bleachers, with the spectators wearing fedoras and tweed suits.
In this era of throwback jerseys, the Nittany Lions and Cornhuskers held a throwback event in front of 78,008 at Memorial Stadium, taking turns meting out punishment while each hard-earned score loomed huge.
In the end, No. 18 Nebraska (3-0) carried the bigger hammer, blasting away at Penn State's game defense with power runs for a 18-10 victory.
The loss dropped the Nittany Lions to 1-2 and was another illustration that their offense works in fits and starts.
"Sooner or later, this thing is going to turn around," quarterback Zack Mills said after Penn State gained only 203 yards, just 44 on the ground. "If we don't make a couple of mistakes here and there, we win the game."
Nebraska's winning drive at the start of the second half was a reflection of the no-nonsense culture of the heartland. For 16 consecutive plays that gobbled 8 minutes and 12 seconds off the clock, the Cornhuskers ran the ball, mostly through the belly of Penn State's defense, and took a 15-10 lead when quarterback Jammal Lord scored from the 3-yard line. Senior I-back Josh Davis, who piled up 179 of Nebraska's 337 yards, ran for 49 yards during the methodical march.
After Mills lost a fumbled snap to Husker linebacker Barrett Ruud at midfield, freshman David Dyches kicked a 32-yard field goal with 3:53 remaining in the game to raise the lead to 18-10. It was the fourth field goal of the game for Dyches.
"I think he [Mills] just dropped it," Ruud said. "It was lying under someone. I just grabbed it. I had to dig it out and get the ref's attention."
Said Mills: "I really don't know what happened. Either I pulled out too early or [center] David [Costlow] snapped the ball too soon. I just don't know."
Penn State's final attempt fell short when Mills threw short on a pass intended for Tony Johnson on fourth and 15 from the Nebraska 44. Michael Robinson, who was trailing Johnson, appeared ready to take a handoff if Johnson had caught the ball.
"We were going to try a little trick there," said Mills, who completed 16 of 33 passes and had a couple of key throws dropped by Johnson, the team's most experienced receiver.
"We played hard and hung in there," Penn State coach Joe Paterno said. "The defense kept us in there. We're still not very precise on offense. Nebraska's kids really ran hard, and their linemen stayed on their blocks. Obviously, the fumble near the end hurt us."
Even though the Huskers dominated statistically, Penn State's defense usually held firm when it had to, giving the offense reason to believe the game could be won. The Huskers had a chance to add to a 15-10 lead early in the fourth, but Lavon Chisley and Ed Johnson stopped Judd Davies on third and 1, and Scott Paxson blocked a field-goal attempt by Dyches.
"It made for some excitement on the sideline and I was just hoping it would carry over," said Paxson, a sophomore from Roman Catholic High School. "It's frustrating. We knew they were going to keep running the ball, but..."
At the end of the first half, Penn State got an emotional jolt along with a 10-9 lead after Robbie Gould booted a 47-yard field goal. During the drive that set up the field goal, Mills completed four passes for 50 yards, showing signs he was on the cusp of finding rhythm for the first time this season.
But it was mostly the defensive play of strong safety Yaacov Yisrael and end Chisley that kept Nebraska from riding its emotional start to a substantial lead.
Early in the first quarter, Yisrael dropped Lord for a 4-yard loss on third and 5, forcing the Cornhuskers to settle for a 36-yard field goal by Dyches.
On their next possession, the Huskers had first and 10 on the Penn State 14 when Yisrael picked off a pass by Lord.
With the Nittany Lions' offense struggling to go anywhere, Chisley provided an opportunity when he recovered a fumble by Lord on the Nebraska 29. Johnson jarred the ball loose from the senior quarterback from Bayonne, N. J. Three plays later, Ricky Upton ran 13 yards untouched and Penn State went in front, 7-6.
Nebraska recovered the lead, 9-7, when Dyches kicked a 41-yard field goal with 2:23 to go in the half.
Notes: Paxson played even though he became ill on Monday because his sugar count dropped. Paxson is diabetic. "That was just a little incident," he said......Senior tackle Chris McKelvy of North Penn High and sophomore guard Tyler Reed started on the offensive line in place of senior Damone Jones, of Central High, and Nick Marmo......Tight end Casey Williams left the game in the second quarter with a knee injury.