Previewing The Enemy: Nebraska Cornhuskers
The final home game of the regular season is upon us. The Nittany Lions welcomes Nebraska to Beaver Stadium for the first time since 2013, when a freshman Christian Hackenberg threw for 217 yards and two touchdowns in a 23-20 loss.
You’ll see a much different Cornhusker team than the Big Ten West division contender that’s battled the last few years.
Nebraska is a program in disarray — there’s no denying that. Head coach Mike Riley will likely be on his way out after taking over for the relatively successful Bo Pellini three seasons ago. He’s allowed to finish the season, but at 4-6 (and somehow third in the Big Ten West) his short-lived tenure at Nebraska is all but finished.
Quarterback Tanner Lee is a key component to Nebraska’s offense due to his penchant for big plays. Unfortunately for the Cornhuskers, he also has a penchant for turnovers. Lee, who transferred into the program from Tulane, entered with much fanfare, but has left some to be desired. He’s got 13 interceptions to go along with his 18 touchdowns, but is only completing roughly 57 percent of his passes. Lee suffered a concussion against Minnesota last weekend, and is questionable to play against the Nittany Lions.
Here’s the hit that sidelined Lee:
Here is the replay angle of that hit on Tanner Lee. pic.twitter.com/EbspTl45WO
— Mike’l Severe (@MikelSevere) November 15, 2017
If Lee can’t go, it’ll be redshirt freshman Patrick O’Brien who’ll play in his place.
Running back Devine Ozigbo leads the Cornhuskers with 468 yards and two touchdowns in Nebraska’s pro-style offense (which features a fullback). Behind him is Tre Bryant, who also has two touchdowns to go along with 299 yards on the ground. Nothing eye-popping from Nebraska’s backs, but the tandem can pick up yards when needed. Ozigbo is also a legitimate threat as a receiver out of the backfield, ranking fifth on the team in catches with 15 grabs for 124 yards.
Leading the Cornhuskers in the receiving department is redshirt freshman J.D. Spielman, who’s accounted for 49 catches for 734 yards and two scores. He’s complemented by Stanley Morgan Jr., who has 47 grabs for 727 yards and seven scores. Spielman’s stats haven’t been seen around the Cornhusker state in quite some time — here’s proof:
.@jdspielman10 now owns the Nebraska freshman records for
— Nebraska Football (@HuskerFBNation) November 11, 2017
He’ll be targeted early and often, so keeping him out of the game will be integral if the Nittany Lions want to stifle Nebraska offensively. The dual tight end set will be an interesting matchup given Penn State’s coverage concerns at the linebacker position.
Senior linebacker Chris Weber leads the Blackshirts in tackles with 82 this season, serving as the point man for defensive coordinator Bob Diaco. It’s an otherwise down year for Nebraska’s defense, though, as the Huskers boast the Big Ten’s second-worst total defense, giving up an average of 412 yards a game.
Nebraska’s also dead last in the conference in terms of its rush defense, surrendering 200.1 yards per contest, which should give Penn State’s struggling running game the confidence boost it needs up front. The Huskers don’t have a dominant pass rusher either, with Ben Stille’s 3.5 sacks currently leading the team.
Defensive backs Aaron Williams and Joshua Kalu have two interceptions apiece, while junior linebacker Dedrick Young II is enjoying his third consecutive 60-plus tackle season. Trace McSorley and the offense is primed for a big Senior Day showing as the Nittany Lions hope to beat Nebraska for the first time since 2002.