1. A Wisconsin-Nebraska title game looks very likely: Wisconsin and Nebraska opened the Big Ten season under the lights in Lincoln on Sept. 29. The Badgers and Huskers probably will close out the conference season Dec. 1 in Indianapolis. Wisconsin punched its ticket for the Big Ten title game Saturday by crushing Indiana 62-14. Montee Ball and the Badgers rushed for a team-record 564 yards -- the highest total in Big Ten play since 1975 -- and completed a rough road back to Indy with a very easy final leg. Nebraska and Michigan remain tied atop the Legends division, but the Huskers hold the head-to-head tiebreaker and took a big step toward Lucas Oil Stadium with another come-from-behind victory Saturday against Penn State. Nebraska once again overcame mistakes and turned in a big second half to remain perfect at home this season. If the Huskers take care of Minnesota at home and Iowa on the road, they'll head to Indianapolis, regardless of what Michigan does in its final two games. These two teams provided plenty of excitement in their first meeting, and it looks as though they'll be reuniting in three weeks.
AP Photo/Tony DingPat Fitzgerald has seen his Northwestern squad blow double-digit leads in each of its three losses.
3. Iowa is staring at a lost season: It has been a season of low points for Kirk Ferentz and the Hawkeyes. The first arrived in Week 4, when they blew a late lead and fell to a woeful Central Michigan team at Kinnick Stadium. The next came a month later, as Penn State turned a much-anticipated night game at Kinnick into an offensive and defensive clinic. More misery arrived the next two weeks, but Iowa managed to find a new low Saturday against a Purdue team that had dropped five straight and had been blown out four times in the Big Ten. Purdue gave Iowa opportunities with three turnovers, but the Hawkeyes couldn't cash in nearly enough, continuing a season-long theme, and lost 27-24. Iowa is plus-11 in turnover margin this season, among the national leaders, and sits at 4-6. That's very hard to do, and underscores Iowa's problems on offense. With upcoming games against Michigan (road) and Nebraska (home), Iowa is staring at a 4-8 season, which would be its worst under Ferentz since a 3-9 campaign in 2001. Tough times right now in Hawkeye Country.
4. The Big Ten's bowl contingent now could be growing: The Week 10 lessons noted that the Big Ten could have as few as five teams in the postseason this season, its lowest number since 1998. That still could be the case, but things changed a bit after Purdue scored an upset victory at Iowa and Minnesota ensured it will be bowling for the first time since 2009 after a victory at Illinois. As poorly as Purdue has played in the Big Ten, the Boilers still have a very realistic chance to get to 6-6, which is all you need this season in the Big Ten. Danny Hope's crew must beat Illinois on the road and Indiana at home, which doesn't seem overly daunting after the way the Hoosiers performed against Wisconsin. To their credit, the Boilers dominated Iowa at Kinnick Stadium and wouldn't have needed a last-second field goal to win if not for three turnovers. Perhaps Purdue can finish strong. Minnesota rode defense and Donnell Kirkwood to the six-win plateau, notching a crucial win before a tough closing stretch (at Nebraska, Michigan State). If Michigan State beats Northwestern on Saturday, five of the six Legends division teams will be bowling.
5. The Big Ten has an officiating problem: Crisis is probably too strong a word, but at the very least, the Big Ten has an image issue with its officiating after the past several weeks. Michigan State coaches and players were livid with some of the late-game calls in the loss against Nebraska, particularly a pass-interference penalty near the end zone at the end of the game. Michigan and Minnesota also griped about pass-interference interpretations, while Penn State has felt as though it has gotten the short end of the stick a lot this year, especially with a lack of holding calls versus Ohio State. Frustrations boiled over for the Nittany Lions on a controversial fumble ruling late in Saturday's loss to Nebraska, which led quarterback Matt McGloin to suggest an officiating conspiracy against Penn State. That's taking things a little too far, but Big Ten officiating has some credibility issues right now. It would be nice if the league would issue some sort of statements about the most controversial calls, but the Big Ten prefers to handle such things in-house. The conference needs to make sure its officiating house is in order going forward.
You'd probably have to be wearing aluminum foil on your head right now to actually believe in such a thing. But the Nittany Lions have felt they've been on the wrong side of too many calls this season, and a key fumble ruling in Saturday's 32-23 loss at Nebraska only added to the frustration, especially for senior quarterback Matt McGloin.
“To reset: Penn State was driving in for a go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter when McGloin hit tight end Matt Lehman for a short pass from the Nebraska 3. Lehman was hit and fumbled the ball into the end zone, where the Huskers recovered for a touchback. However, replays appeared to show that Lehman broke the plane with the ball before it got knocked loose. Penn State definitely thought it was a touchdown, but the call was upheld after an official review.
We're not going to get that call here. We're not going to get that call ever, actually, against any team. It doesn't matter who the refs are. That's the way it is.” -- Penn State QB Matt McGloin
After the game, referee John O’Neill issued this statement: “The ruling on the field was a fumble short of the goal line. It went to replay and the replay official said the play stood based on the views he had. It’s ultimately his decision.”
McGloin could barely contain his frustration in a postgame interview, which you can watch here in a video taped by Audrey Snyder.
"We're not going to get that call here," McGloin told reporters. "We're not going to get that call ever, actually, against any team. It doesn't matter who the refs are. That's the way it is."
When asked why he said that, McGloin responded, "Why do you think? That's the way it is, man. Write what you think."
McGloin later said that the team had an us-against-the-world mentality and knew that it was "not going to get any help whatsoever" from the officials. He also tweeted out a slow-motion video of the play.
The clear implication here is that McGloin believes Penn State is still being punished for the Jerry Sandusky scandal and NCAA probation. Head coach Bill O'Brien was asked if he thought there was some kind of conspiracy to make Penn State lose.
"We don't feel like anyone is out to get us," O'Brien said.
You can't blame McGloin for being upset with losing such a tough game on the road, and maybe it was just the heat of the moment getting to him. But there is a genuine feeling among some Penn State fans that the team has not gotten its share of breaks this season.
Cornerback Stephon Morris had a more levelheaded response when asked about the controversial call.
"The referees did the best they could, but we put ourselves in that situation," he said. "We could have gotten some more third-down stops, we could have stopped [Nebraska quarterback Taylor] Martinez and we could have stopped the run. You can't leave the game in the referees' hands. We know that. They're not perfect. Nobody's perfect. That's just on us."
LINCOLN, Neb. -- Serious-minded Nebraska coach Bo Pelini is not usually one to make a lot of wisecracks when talking to the media.
But Pelini couldn't help but joke after his team pulled off yet another comeback from a double-digit deficit, this time to beat Penn State 32-23 on Saturday.
"I'm going to call the Big Ten and spot 'em 14 points, and we're good to go," Pelini said.
At this point, if you're a Nebraska fan or an opponent victimized by these zombie-like Huskers, you can't do much else but shake your head at the absurdity of this team's ways. Down 17 at home in the third quarter to Wisconsin? No problem. Trailing by 12 with six minutes to go at Northwestern? No sweat. Behind by 10 with a little more than seven minutes to play? We got this.
Some teams walk a tightrope. Nebraska jumps a motorcycle over a lake full of alligators while on fire. Team officials say the Huskers' four second-half, double-digit comebacks this season lead the nation and are the most in school history.
So when Penn State ran to the locker room with a 20-6 lead after 30 minutes on Saturday, there was no panic for the home team.
"The vibe at halftime was, 'All right, it's 0-0,'" running back Ameer Abdullah said. "We do this every week. We know what to do."
Pelini said he was hoping his team could the score by the fourth quarter. It surprised him by striking for two touchdowns in the first 5:23 of the second half to shift momentum their way. But this is Nebraska, so it still wasn't easy.
The Huskers wouldn't take their first lead until there was 10:57 left to play. And they caught a major break after that, when tight end Matt Lehman fumbled a potential go-ahead Penn State touchdown into the end zone for a Nebraska touchback.
Replays appeared to show that Lehman broke the plane just before losing the ball, but an official review upheld the fumble call. Nittany Lions quarterback Matt McGloin later tweeted out a video of the play and hinted in a postgame interview that referees had it in for Penn State because of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
AP Photo/Dave WeaverNebraska coach Bo Pelini cheers on Saturday as his team pulled off its fourth double-digit rally in the second half this season.
Fumble or not, the fact remains that the Huskers outscored Penn State 26-3 in the second half, holding the Nittany Lions to just 136 total yards after halftime. The Blackshirts defense was clearly bothered by Penn State's hurry-up "NASCAR" offensive package, burning three defensive timeouts and getting caught with too many defenders on the field several times in the first half.
"They went to the hurry-up and we couldn't adjust well," defensive lineman Cam Meredith said. "A lot of times we were looking at the sideline and not getting the call. We came up with a solution."
The answer was brilliantly simple, as Nebraska decided just to go with the same defensive alignment every time Penn State went to the no-huddle. It worked, as Daimion Stafford grabbed a key interception against McGloin and the Huskers later forced McGloin into an intentional grounding in the end zone for a safety.
Nebraska forced three turnovers, for once coming out on the right side of that battle. That doesn't mean it was all good news, though, as quarterback Taylor Martinez fumbled the ball inside the Penn State 5 to ruin a scoring chance, and Tim Marlowe muffed a first-half punt return to set up a Nittany Lions touchdown. The Huskers entered the day tied for second-to-last in the nation in lost fumbles, and they gave two more away to run their season total to minus-16.
Slipperiness with the ball isn't supposed to translate to winning. Yet, like an eccentric billionaire, Nebraska keeps succeeding despite its erratic behavior. Its offense leads the Big Ten in scoring and yardage despite all the turnovers and the slow starts. What could the Huskers do if they ever cleaned all that up?
"The sky's the limit," said Abdullah, who had his sixth 100-yard day of the season with 116 yards on 31 carries. "We've yet to play our best game offensively. We say we want to play our best game in our last game, and we've got a couple of games left."
Believe it or not, there is some method to this comeback madness. Offensive coordinator Tim Beck says opposing defenses have thrown new looks at the Huskers all season long in an effort to slow down their deep cast of offensive skill players.
"There are some games where we might as well not even practice," he said. "Because what we're seeing isn't what we're practicing against."
Beck said it often takes a couple of quarters to figure out just what is happening and then adjust to it. On Saturday, the Nittany Lions used some blitzes and schemes that Beck hadn't seen on film from them all year.
Beck's offense also is designed to wear opponents out with its high-tempo pace and speed. That's one reason the Huskers kept running toss sweeps to different sides of the field, making Penn State's thin defense run from sideline to sideline all game. The Nittany Lions looked gassed by the fourth quarter.
That doesn't mean Nebraska would like to continue this particular pattern of falling behind, turning the ball over and mounting wild comebacks.
"It's enough already," Martinez said. "We need to start getting ahead."
But this particular brand of crazy works for them. After losing 63-38 at Ohio State on Oct. 6, Pelini told his team it needed to win out to claim a Big Ten title. Four straight wins later, the Huskers are in control of the Legends Division. They need only to beat Minnesota at home next week and win at struggling Iowa in the season finale to reach the Big Ten championship game.
"That's four down, and we've got two more to go," Pelini said. "We just have to stay the course."
The same crazy, winning course.
LINCOLN, Neb. -- Nebraska never makes things easy for itself and especially not its fans. But the No. 16 Cornhuskers keep on winning.
Down 20-6 at halftime against Penn State, the Huskers engineered one of their patented second-half comebacks and held on for a 32-23 victory at Memorial Stadium.
The win keeps Nebraska in first place of the Legends Division and gets it one step closer to playing in the Big Ten championship game. Here's a quick look at how it went down:
It was over when: Justin Blatchford broke up Matt McGloin's fourth-down pass attempt with under three minutes to play. But the game-changer came with 5:02 left, when McGloin was called for intentional grounding in the end zone. That penalty resulted in a safety and gave Nebraska the 29-23 lead and the ball. Nebraska scored two touchdowns in the first 5:23 of the second half to tie the score, the second one coming after a McGloin interception deep in Penn State territory.
Game ball goes to: Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez. He had another costly turnover, fumbling the ball inside the Penn State 5 to short-circuit a scoring opportunity. But Martinez still gets the job done. He completed 12 of 20 passes for 171 yards and a touchdown and carried 15 times for 104 yards. Ameer Abdullah also rushed for 116 yards on 31 carries.
Stat of the game: Penn State had 255 yards and 20 points in the first half. In the second half, Nebraska held the Nittany Lions to 136 yards and just one field goal. The Huskers outscored the Nittany Lions 26-3 in the second half.
Unsung hero of the game: Nebraska's Brett Maher shanked a 16-yard punt into the heavy wind earlier in the game. But with Nebraska needing to punt with about 5:40 to go, he unleashed a 69-yarder that went out of bounds at the Penn State 2. That pin job directly led to the safety.
Second guessing: Penn State was about to take the lead late when McGloin hit tight end Matt Lehman on a short pass near the goal line. But Lehman fumbled into the end zone, and Nebraska recovered. Replays appeared to show that Lehman crossed the plane before he fumbled, but the ruling was upheld after an official review. Bottom line: Lehman has to hold onto the ball there.
What it means: Go ahead and write Nebraska into the Big Ten title game, if not with permanent marker then at least with a finely-sharpened No. 2 pencil. The Huskers need only to beat Minnesota at home and Iowa on the road to claim the Legends Division title and a berth in Indianapolis because of their head-to-head win over Michigan. They are too good to lose to either of those teams, so a rematch of the 30-27 win over Wisconsin on Sept. 29 appears all but inevitable.
Penn State will try to finish off a perfect season on the road in the Big Ten on Saturday, but it will be a tough atmosphere in Lincoln against Legends leader Nebraska.
GameCast Preview »
Josh Moyer catches up with Cedar Cliff (Camp Hill, Pa.) senior Adam Breneman, the nation's top tight end prospect. Breneman, a Penn State commit, is currently recovering from an ACL tear suffered over the summer.
This week's subject is junior college quarterback Jake Waters (Council Bluffs, Iowa/Iowa Western C.C.), Penn State's top uncommitted quarterback target. He'll take an official visit to Happy Valley on Nov. 17 for the Indiana game.
Waters is widely regarded as the nation's top juco signal-caller. Through 10 games, he's posted up video game-type numbers. He's thrown for 3,001 yards, 37 touchdowns and just three interceptions. He's also completing nearly 75 percent of his passes.
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This week's impact player: Stephon Morris, senior cornerback
Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez might be the best pocket passer this secondary sees all season -- and he loves to go after cornerbacks. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Martinez is completing 55.1 percent of his passes thrown over 15 yards. And the intermediate to deep routes should again be on showcase vs. Penn State.
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He disguised his routes, pulled down catches with black-and-blue Nike gloves and always seemed open back in March practices. Receivers coach Stan Hixon realized "right off the bat" Robinson would be a special player.
Brandon Moseby-Felder -- who's since become Matt McGloin's No. 3 target -- wasn't so fortunate.
The redshirt junior crumpled to the turf with a severely strained hamstring after the first week of spring practice. Unable to show Hixon what he was capable of on the field, he tried to tell him everything he could do. Over and over again.
"He's been telling me all along how good he is," Hixon said Thursday. "And with me, 'It's OK, we'll see.' "
Moseby-Felder’s ability wasn’t seen for much of the four seasons he watched from the sideline. He missed his high school senior season with a blown-out knee -- redshirted his freshman season as a result -- and seemed to pinball between the practice field and training room.
But when Justin Brown transferred and Shawney Kersey quit, Hixon scrambled to find the next man up. Moseby-Felder wasn't the obvious choice because of that lingering hamstring injury. But he turned out to be the best one.
The speedy wideout -- who claimed he ran a sub 4.4 the last time he was clocked -- has seen more passing targets every week. His stats have climbed the last four games: from 34 yards to 60, 70, and then a breakout game of 129 yards.
"We had a lot of talks over the offseason," Moseby-Felder said, referring to Hixon. "He expected me to do a lot of big things for him this year, but that kind of went down after I got hurt -- and I guess now it's picking back up."
Moseby-Felder, who enrolled as a 164-pound athlete, devoted himself to the new strength program and spent nights learning the playbook when he couldn't fine-tune his technique on the field. And, according to cornerback Stephon Morris, that hard work has paid dividends.
He said no offensive player has improved more.
"He's come a long way," Morris said. "He's been one of those kids that we haven't really noticed his first four years here, but he got the opportunity to play this year with people leaving and getting hurt and things like that. But I always knew he had it in him.
"This is the first year he finally felt confident and got back to his old form. He's a great talent and great person to be around."
He's emerged as McGloin's No. 3 target. And, with tight end Kyle Carter's injury, McGloin could look his way even more. With 25 catches so far, more than tripling his previous career totals, Moseby-Felder is already on pace for a memorable season.
Bill O'Brien remarked earlier this week how he's fine-tuned his route-running and developed into a solid blocker. Hixon said, by Week 4 or 5, his speed finally returned and he's added a dimension to this passing game. His teammates have lauded his improvement.
Moseby-Felder no longer has to tap on Hixon's shoulder or insist how good he can be. He doesn't have to say anything anymore.
Everybody already knows.
Here are NittanyNation's Week 11 storylines:
1. Matt McGloin vs. Taylor Martinez. They're the best pocket-passers in the Big Ten. Martinez boasts 18 touchdown passes, and so does McGloin. McGloin is completing 62.1 percent of his passes, Martinez is at 62.9 percent. McGloin combines for 271 passing and rushing yards a game, Martinez for 290. These quarterbacks will have a big say in whether their teams win, and all eyes will be on how these two play. If McGloin -- who has fewer interceptions -- can outplay Martinez, he might just play himself onto the All-Big Ten team. But that won't be an easy task; Nebraska has the No. 5 pass defense in the nation.
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First came Weezer, then Kanye West and then Wiz Khalifa. On the practice fields, under a pink-and-blue sky, some players bobbed their heads to the beat during Wednesday stretches. Reporters were forced to raise their voices to speak with colleagues a shoulder's length apart, as if at a downtown bar on a Saturday night.
Bill O'Brien has often emphasized preparing for road crowds by lugging oversized speakers onto the practice field. Usually, different playlists and styles will blare from those tan speakers every Wednesday. But, usually, visitors can't hear the music before they pull into the parking lot.
"I would expect that this atmosphere will be very loud, very intense, from what I hear," O'Brien said. "Again, it's Nebraska-Penn State, that's what college football's all about."
Some players pointed to communication issues because of noise during the Ohio State game -- and O'Brien's been searching for a fix since then. Even Matt McGloin acknowledged he was caught off-guard upon needing to use a silent cadence inside Beaver Stadium.
O'Brien crossed his arms following his team's first Big Ten loss and said he realized his team needed to be better prepared. After a quiet Purdue crowd, it appears as if O'Brien's found a simplistic way to mimic more crowd noise: Turn up the volume.
"Nebraska's a very hostile environment, so we're trying to simulate their environment," wideout Brandon Moseby-Felder said.
The speakers were angled slightly left Wednesday, toward McGloin slinging passes to the running backs and wide receivers pulling down short passes from the assistant coaches. The music started before reporters first arrived to the fields around 4:50 p.m.
The Nittany Lions aren't quite sure what to expect from Memorial Stadium because the last time they entered the Cornhusker State, in 2003, O'Brien was coaching running backs at Maryland and McGloin had just hit his teen years.
O'Brien doesn't have first-hand experience with the stadium, but he knows its fan base and history. Three weeks ago, Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter told The Chicago Tribune the offense couldn't hear his cadences during the final two minutes because of the Cornhuskers' crowd -- and the game was at Northwestern.
"We're going to go to Nebraska, we're going to experience that stadium and have fun in that stadium and play a great game," center Matt Stankiewitch said. "And that's the mentality. ...
"We're really looking forward to wearing a jersey for the last time on the road."