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NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: The Top Five Things We Saw Against Penn State

By Huskerlocker @huskerlocker

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By Erin Sorensen
Fans were unsure of what to expect as last Saturday's kickoff drew nearer. At the final whistle, a 17-14 victory was more than sweet, as Nebraska handed Penn State their first conference loss of the season. It was still bitter though, as fans witnessed a program struggling to move past one of the biggest scandals in college athletics.
1. Pressure on Matt McGloin/An Absent Rob Bolden
Penn State often starts sophomore Rob Bolden against opponents. Bolden never saw the field as junior Matt McGloin took the reins of the Nittany Lions’ offense. However, Bolden’s lack of time under center is a mystery, as he is easily the better runner of the two.
The logic here must have been that McGloin is a better decision-maker and would be able to handle a situation like the 17-0 deficit Penn State found itself staring at.
Nebraska fans were told to look for the junior starting first, with Bolden coming in as a backup, a reverse from what Penn State usually does. However, enough pressure from the defense (and efficient scoring by the Husker offense) kept McGloin in the game.
It was oddly reminiscent of Nebraska’s trip to Wisconsin, except this time, it was Penn State trying to keep up. Big passes taught McGloin a fast lesson about not throwing anywhere near Nebraska cornerback Alfonzo Dennard. Had he continued, Dennard would have had a pick or two.
The Nebraska defense still showed weaknesses, but the improvement is there. Penn State’s refusal to remove McGloin was proof enough of that.
2. The Ability to Adjust
There were not a lot of adjustments to be made. However, when the Husker wide receivers were dropping passes, offensive coordinator Tim Beck started calling more plays for I-Back Rex Burkhead.
When he wasn’t finding room to run, it was back to the air. This kept Penn State’s defense moving constantly, and it was clear the Nittany Lions were worn out by the fourth quarter.
Once again, Beck showed that he is able of calling a crisp, near-perfect game. Improving his play-calling consistency is going to be vital for the first-year offensive coordinator. If he can find a rhythm, this offense is primed to be unstoppable.
3. Game Management by Taylor Martinez
Sophomore quarterback Taylor Martinez is on a campaign to silence all those who have doubted him. When given a solid playbook from Beck, the Californian quarterback becomes next to unstoppable. Quick passes are clearly his strong suit. His throwing form may be bizarre, but it’s working. Why fix what’s not broke?
It’s clear that Martinez is growing up. His leadership skills are becoming stronger with each game as are his game management skills. As the clock ticked down in the fourth quarter, Martinez made Husker fans nervous by snapping the ball with one or two seconds left.
However, fans are seeing that this is what he intends to do, instead of the confusion of years past. Martinez is shaping into a quarterback that, while still frustrating at times, knows how to make the offense produce. For a sophomore, that’s a huge step.
4. The Lack of Young Running Backs
Head Coach Bo Pelini should have considered keeping a redshirt on one of his three talented true freshman backs. At this point in the season, it is clear that the young guys are not going to be making too many appearances.
Whether it is a lack of confidence in them, or too much in Burkhead, Beck and Pelini have made up their mind as to who will see the field and who will not.
Fans can continue to wish for use of the three young backs, but it’s doubtful this will happen. With Burkhead back at ‘Superman’ status and another 100-yard game, the workhorse will handle the remainder of the season.
It doesn’t hurt that Burkhead and Martinez clearly get along very well. Fans should expect to see a similar game plan to Penn State’s against Michigan and Iowa, with Martinez and Burkhead running the ship.
Ameer Abdullah, Aaron Green and Braylon Heard are just going to have to wait.
5. Team Composure
Bo Pelini didn’t think the game in Happy Valley should have been played in the first place. The team was surprised by the amount of security they were surrounded by. National media was camped outside of Joe Paterno’s house in State College. The day was poised to be a spectacle.
However, Nebraska did exactly what they needed to do – Stand united. The Huskers weren’t just united with one another, but also held a friendly hand out to Penn State.
Players from both sidelines earned a great deal of respect for one another last Saturday. For what is intended to be Nebraska’s great “cross-division rivalry,” it appears Nebraska and Penn State players, coaches, and fans look forward to playing each other perhaps more than anyone else.
From the pre-game prayer on the 50-yard line to the shaking of hands at the end, Nebraska and Penn State showed a great deal of respect for one another. It was a proud moment for Husker fans. It showed that no amount of media frenzy would faze this group of young men.
Overall, fans saw a game full of promise for Nebraska. It was a proud day for Husker Nation, who wanted to see nothing more that a clean, fair game.
A note to Bo Pelini: Don’t think that the fans didn’t notice you wearing red, even when athletic director Tom Osborne told fans not too. That red jacket said a lot more than many may have noticed – It was a salute to Husker fans everywhere.
Follow Erin on Twitter: @helloerinmarie
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