Nebraska had a ton of questions going into the first real test of the season. Questions about the new QB, questions about the young O line and questions about the secondary. To a degree, those questions were answered , but Husker fans aren't liking the answers. Between a running game that never really got running to a secondary that was absolutely abused, Nebraska might have had eight cylinders coming in, but ran on two at best. Nothing was working.
Early on, it seemed like Nebraska could do something after answering a Penn State touchdown. As bad as the secondary looked, the offense managed to move the ball down the field with a healthy combination of run and pass. It would be the only bright side that Nebraska would see all night. Pat Ricketts will no doubt want to forget this night ever existed as he was simply abused by Mills and company. The Lions' strategy was simple. Wherever Ricketts was, pass there. It worked. DeJuan Groce could have put up a tent for all the attention he was getting. No matter where he was, the ball was thrown the opposite direction.
You can say as much for Penn State though as you can for Nebraska. We had pointed out that this line would be a major key to this game and they were. When Mills needed at least some time, the O-line was able to give them that, but Mills was the bottom line. Penn State has had a serious drought when it comes to that marquee QB they have been used to having, but it's safe to say, the drought is over. Mills was brilliant. Between his running and his throwing, he tortured the Nebraska defense. He was the X factor and it was enough to X the Huskers out of the game entirely.
On defense, Penn State did what they had to do. Actually, they did what everybody does against Nebraska. They loaded the box, dared Jammal Lord to beat them and again, it worked. Lord, in his first real game of the year, buckled. In the first big game of his career at NU as a starter, you can debate as to the circumstances behind the performance, but everything after NU's first touchdown drive was a disaster waiting to happen. All in all, you can't blame Lord too much. Penn State was ready and no matter what NU did, the Lions were ready and shoved the Huskers' efforts at getting anything going, right back in their face. Lord was just a contributor to what would end up being yet another major road loss against a ranked team.
At halftime, things actually looked good. With all the mistakes on defense and ineffectiveness on offense, Nebraska was just a touchdown behind. The second half where you would assume adjustments would be made, execution would be better, Nebraska was beat at every turn. Penn State owned the second half as Nebraska is usually accustomed to doing. The Lions defeated Nebraska's every effort. Blame Nebraska for what could easily be called a lackluster performance, but give PSU credit for stepping up to the plate. They played like they wanted to win, they fought like they were behind all day and in the end, Nebraska takes a flight home wondering just who they are.
Was NU that overrated? Was the team that outmatched? How big of an effect has youth made on this NU team and how many will blame the coaches? When you lose like this, everyone gets questioned. A loss like this will leave the entire staff questioning things and being questioned about everything. At least tonight, there are no answers. Not for NU.
There's always a bright side to this team though, but they have a long ways to go. NU isn't in the toilet by any means. It's still NU. With that being said, they just got a reality check in Happy Valley. I wonder when tomorrow comes around, (for NU) what will it all mean. Will the drawing board be tore down and rebuilt to try and address some very obvious concerns? Or, is it all just a matter of experience? I wish I knew.
Before this game, I was ready to scold all the Husker faithful for their utter lack of belief in this team. I was ready to shout at the top of my lungs, that all you needed was to have just a little faith and believe in what this team was capable. I was even ready to say, shame on you. Well, I was wrong, I guessed they would win and big and I never thought for a second Nebraska would lose.
Well, shame on me.