Rapid Reaction: Nebraska revives season with narrow win over Penn State
The 8th and 9th winningest programs in Division I history entered a mid-November showdown without a single victory. Nebraska proved more desperate.
The Cornhuskers potentially saved their season with a narrow 30-23 victory over Penn State to give Nebraska its first win of the season and send the Lions to 0-4 for the first time since 2001.
Luke McCaffrey made the first start of his collegiate career and played efficient football on both the ground and through the air. He led Nebraska on scoring drives on each of its 4 first-half possessions, completing 10 of 15 passes for 132 yards and added another 22 yards on the ground.
The freshman made a spectacular play on 3rd down in the second quarter using his left hand to extend the drive and set up an eventual field goal.
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) November 14, 2020
Penn State made a QB change of its own, benching Sean Clifford in the 2nd quarter after his second turnover of the game, a fumble returned for a touchdown by Deontai Williams. The turnover was Clifford’s 8th of the season, matching his total for all of 2019.
The Lions’ offense was much more efficient with Levis under center running the ball and showed signs of life in the second half. A 31-yard scoring run by freshman Keyvone Lee cut the lead to 14 points in the 3rd quarter, the first touchdown of his career. Fellow freshman Caziah Holmes also had a 36-yard carry in the game, the longest rush this year for Penn State.
Penn State outgained Nebraska by nearly 100 yards in the 3rd quarter, but the Cornhuskers came up with a pivotal stop on three consecutive plays from their own 7-yard line to hold Penn State to just a field goal at the end of the quarter and slowed any momentum the Lions were gaining with Levis.
Nebraska restored it lead to two touchdowns in the 4th, but a 74-yard bomb from Levis to Pat Freiermuth set up a 5-yard touchdown from Devyn Ford to cut the Nebraska lead to 7.
Will Levis slowly turning into Joe Burrow pic.twitter.com/C35IgCXGYp
— Ben Jones (@Ben_Jones88) November 14, 2020
McCaffrey through an interception on the ensuing drive, giving Penn State the ball back at the Cornhuskers’ 48-yard line. The Lions converted one 4th-down attempt but were stopped on a second 4th-down try at the Nebraska 11 to preserve to Cornhuskers’ first win.
McCaffrey finished the day 13-of-21 for 152 yards and a touchdown. He added one more score on the ground. Adrian Martinez never played. Wan’Dale Robinson who entered the game with zero carries on the season, filled the running void left by Martinez, finishing with 16 carries for 60 yards.
The road doesn’t get any easier for Penn State as the Lions return home to play an Iowa team coming off consecutive blowout wins of 42 and 28 points. Nebraska will look to return to .500 with a game against Illinois, the only winless team remaining in the Big Ten outside of Penn State.