Will Compton leads the Blackshirts against Penn State
Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

Huskers Return Home to Face Nittany Lions

By NU Athletic Communications

LINCOLN, NEB. | 2:30 p.m. (CT)

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Record: 7-2, 4-1 Big Ten
Rankings: Coaches-16; AP-18
Last Game: def. Michigan State, 28-24
Coach: Bo Pelini
Career/NU Record: 46-18/5th year 
vs. Penn State: 1-0

Record: 6-3, 4-1 Big Ten
Rankings: Coaches-NR; AP-NR
Last Game: def. Purdue, 34-9
Coach: Bill O'Brein
Career/PSU Record: 6-3/1st year
vs. Nebraska: 0-0

The Matchup
Nebraska returns home this Saturday for a matchup of traditional college football powers, taking on Penn State at Memorial Stadium. Kickoff for the matchup is set for 2:30 p.m. CT with the game to be televised nationally on either ABC or ESPN2.

The Huskers enter the contest on a three-game winning streak, following a dramatic comeback victory on the road at Michigan State on Saturday. The Huskers trailed 24-14 midway through the fourth quarter, but rallied for a 28-24 win on the strength of an 80-yard touchdown drive in the final 1:20. Quarterback Taylor Martinez accounted for 365 yards of total offense in the game, including 205 rushing yards.

The victory improved Nebraska to 7-2 overall on the season, including a 4-1 record in Big Ten play. Nebraska remains tied atop the Legends Division with Michigan. The Huskers also continue to rise in the national rankings, checking in at No. 18 in the Associated Press Poll and 16th in the USA Today Coaches Poll, while sitting at 16th in the BCS rankings.

Penn State has been impressive throughout Big Ten Conference play, posting a 4-1 league record and a 6-3 overall mark in 2012. Since beginning the season with a pair of losses, PSU has won six of its past seven games, including four wins by 24 or more points. Like Nebraska, the Nittany Lions’ only conference loss came at the hands of fifth-ranked Ohio State. Penn State ranks fourth in the Big Ten in both total offense and total defense.

The Series
Saturday’s matchup with Penn State in Lincoln will be the 15th all-time meeting between the two schools, and the second as members of the Big Ten Conference. The series is tied at seven wins apiece, with Nebraska holding a 4-2 advantage in games played at Memorial Stadium. Penn State last traveled to Lincoln in 2003, when the Huskers won an 18-10 contest.

The Coaches

Bo Pelini (Ohio State, ‘90) owns a 46-18 record (.719) in his fifth season. Pelini has guided NU to nine or more wins in each of his first four seasons as head coach, joining Bob Devaney, Tom Osborne and Frank Solich in accomplishing that feat. Pelini is one of only six first-time head coaches in NCAA history to win at least nine games in each of his first four seasons at a BCS conference school.

Penn State:
Bill O’Brien (Brown, ‘92) is in his first season as the Nittany Lions head coach, and he has guided Penn State to a 6-3 mark, including a 4-1 record in Big Ten play. O’Brien came to Penn State after five seasons on Bill Belichick’s New England staff. O’Brien also served stints as an assistant coach at Brown, Georgia Tech, Maryland and Duke.

Scouting Penn State:
Penn State began its season with two straight losses, but the Nittany Lions have rebounded to win six of their last seven games. PSU has been tough on the road, posting a 3-1 record, including three straight road victories. The Nittany Lions’ lone road loss this season was a 17-16 setback at Virginia in the second week of the season. In Big Ten Conference play, Penn State has posted a 28-point win at Illinois, a 24-point win at Iowa and a 25-point win at Purdue last Saturday.

The win over Purdue gave Penn State a 6-3 overall record and with a 4-1 mark in Big Ten play, the Nittany Lions are tied with Nebraska and Michigan for the league’s second-best record behind undefeated Ohio State.

Penn State boasts the Big Ten’s second-best passing offense, averaging 272.0 yards per game. Quarterback Matt McGloin is completing 62 percent of his passes, and the senior is on pace to set the school record for passing yards. Allen Robinson has been McGloin’s top target. Robinson leads the Big Ten with 57 receptions, 689 receiving yards and eight touchdowns.

On the ground, Penn State is averaging 140.2 yards per game and 3.6 yards per carry. Zach Zwinak leads the Nittany Lions with 545 yards and three TDs.

Defensively, PSU ranks 14th nationally in scoring defense, allowing only 17.1 points per game. Penn State has held five opponents to two touchdowns or less. PSU also ranks 26th nationally in total defense, 37th against the pass and 26th against the run.

Penn State boasts one of the Big Ten’s best linebacking corps in Michael Mauti, Gerald Hodges and Glenn Carson. The trio are the Nittany Lions’ three leading tacklers, combining for 210 stops this season, with Mauti (6th) and Hodges (8th) both ranking among the conference’s top-10 tacklers. Mauti has also intercepted a team-high three passes and forced a pair of fumbles.

PSU’s defense has started strong, as the unit allowed a first-quarter field goal to Purdue last Saturday, marking the only first-quarter points it has allowed this year.

Series History
The all-time series between Nebraska and Penn State is tied 7-7. NU has won two straight in the series, three of the last four and six of the last nine. A win today would give Nebraska three straight wins in the series, tying the longest winning streak in series history. Penn State won four of the first five meetings, all between 1920 and 1952. The Huskers have been ranked in each of the last nine meetings, including last year when 19th-ranked NU upset No. 12 Penn State on the road, 17-14. Nebraska has won four of the six games played at Memorial Stadium.

The games have usually been close with an all-time average score of 17-16 in favor of Nebraska. The last two meetings have been decided by eight points or less and seven of the last 11 meetings have been decided by 10 or fewer points.

Penn State Coach Bill O'Brien
Bill O’Brien is in his first season at Penn State, where he has guided the Nittany Lions to a 6-3 record. After losing the first two games, O’Brien led PSU to five straight wins, and the Nittany Lions have won six of their last seven games overall. Although Penn State is ineligible for postseason play this season including the Big Ten Championship Game, O’Brien has led the Nittany Lions to the second-best conference record (4-1) in the Big Ten.

Before taking the Penn State job in January, O’Brien had spent five years in the NFL. He was with the New England Patriots from 2007 to 2011, ending his stint with the Patriots as offensive coordinator in 2011. Previously, he had coached both New England’s quarterbacks and wide receivers.

O’Brien began his coaching career in the collegiate ranks at Brown, his alma mater, in 1993 and 1994. He coached at Georgia Tech from 1995 to 2002, before coaching at Maryland in 2003 and 2004 and Duke in 2005 and 2006.

Four Straight Nine-Win Seasons
Nebraska finished 9-4 in 2011 to secure its fourth straight nine-win season under Head Coach Bo Pelini. The current streak of four straight nine-win seasons puts Nebraska in an elite class nationally. Nebraska needs two more victories in 2012 to extend its streak to five straight seasons.

- The four straight years of nine wins marks the first time NU has accomplished that since its NCAA record streak of 33 straight nine-win seasons from 1969 to 2001.

- Nebraska is one of eight schools with nine wins or more each season from 2008 to 2011, joining TCU, Oregon, Boise State, Oklahoma State, Virginia Tech, Alabama and West Virginia.

- Nebraska has 46 nine-win seasons in school history, including 39 since 1969.

Husker Players Fill National Award Watch Lists
Several Huskers earned preseason recognition entering the 2012 season. Highlighting the list of honorees were seniors Rex Burkhead and Brett Maher, who both earned preseason All-America honors from Athlon. Burkhead was a second-team running back selection, while Maher was a second-team kicker. Burkhead also earned second-team preseason All-America honors from Sports Illustrated.

Burkhead earned recognition as one of 50 players on the Walter Camp Award watch list and one of 65 players on the Doak Walker Award and Maxwell Award watch lists. The Walter Camp and Maxwell awards are presented annually to the nation’s player of the year, while the Doak Walker Award honors the nation’s top running back.

In addition to his preseason All-America recognition, Maher was named to the watch lists for the Ray Guy and Lou Groza awards. A native of Kearney, Neb., Maher was one of only two kickers nationally to be named to the watch list for both the Guy and Groza awards, which honor the nation’s top punter and place-kicker, respectively.

Other NU offensive players earning preseason recognition were sophomore Ameer Abdullah, juniors Spencer Long and Taylor Martinez and senior Kyler Reed. Abdullah is one of 12 semifinalists for “The Jet” award, which recognizes the nation’s top returner and is named in honor of former Husker Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Rodgers. Abdullah also earned a spot on the Paul Hornung Award watch list, an award given to the most versatile player in college football.

Long is considered as one of the nation’s top linemen with his inclusions on the watch list for the Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award, while Martinez earned preseason recognition on a pair of watch lists for two of the top quarterback honors, the Manning and Davey O’Brien awards. Reed wrapped up the list of offensive honorees by earning his second straight selection to the Mackey Award watch list, awarded to the nation’s top tight end.

Defensive end Cameron Meredith earned a spot on the Ted Hendricks Award watch list for the second straight year, an award given to the nation’s best defensive end. Baker Steinkuhler earned a trio of preseason honors, including spots on the Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award watch lists. He was also considered among the nation’s best overall defenders, as he was one of 42 national candidates for the Lott IMPACT Tophy.

Nebraska Continues to Show Ability to Rally
Nebraska has put together three significant comebacks to earn three of its four Big Ten victories in 2012. In a 30-27 victory over Wisconsin on Sept. 29, Nebraska rallied from a 27-10 second-half deficit to secure a win. That rally tied for the second-largest comeback in school history.

The Huskers trailed at Northwestern 28-16 in the fourth quarter, but two late TD drives allowed Nebraska to escape Evanston with a 29-28 victory. The rally from a 12-point fourth-quarter deficit tied the largest fourth-quarter comeback in school history. NU also rallied from 12 down in the final quarter at Missouri in 2009 and at Colorado in 1966.

Nebraska put together a similar rally to pull out a 28-24 win at Michigan State. NU trailed 24-14 midway through the fourth quarter before staging a dramatic comeback. The rally was capped by a nine-play, 80-yard game-winning TD drive, culminated by a Taylor Martinez to Jamal Turner touchdown connection with six seconds remaining.

According to STATS LLC, Nebraska is the only school in the country to overcome three double-digit deficits in the second half in 2012.

Fourth Quarter Dominance Leading to Big Ten Success
Nebraska has had three dramatic second-half comebacks in Big Ten play, including two double-digit rallies on the road in the past three weeks. A closer look inside the numbers reveals that Nebraska has dominated the opposition in the final quarter in its four Big Ten victories against Wisconsin, Northwestern, Michigan and Michigan State.

- Nebraska has out-scored the four opponents 37-14 in the fourth quarter.

- Nebraska has out-gained the four opponents by an average of 147-39 in the fourth quarter. The Huskers have averaged 24 plays in the fourth quarter of those victories, compared to just 10 plays for the opponents. Against Michigan State, Nebraska ran 31 fourth-quarter plays to just 13 for the Spartans.

- Nebraska is averaging 6.1 yards per fourth-quarter play in those four games, compared to just 2.7 yards for the opposition.

- Nebraska has a 9-3 edge in average fourth-quarter first downs. Against Michigan State, Nebraska had a 12-1 advantage in fourth-quarter first downs.

- Nebraska averages 9:41 time of possession in the fourth quarter compared to 5:19 for the opposition.

Quarterback Taylor Martinez has keyed Nebraska’s fourth-quarter comebacks at Northwestern and Michigan State. In the final 15 minutes against the Wildcats, Martinez accounted for 147 total yards, completing 10-of-14 passes for 140 yards and two touchdowns.

At Michigan State, Martinez accounted for 176 yards of total offense, throwing for 108 yards and one touchdown and rushing for 68 yards and one score. In the two fourth-quarter road comebacks at Northwestern and Michigan State, Martinez combined for 323 yards of total offense, three passing touchdowns and one rushing touchdown.

Martinez Ascends to Top of Nebraska Career Total Offense Chart
Nebraska junior quarterback Taylor Martinez moved to the top of Nebraska’s career total offense list with an explosive performance at Michigan State. Martinez ran for 205 yards in the game, threw for another 160 yards and was responsible for all four Nebraska touchdowns. With his 365 yards of total offense against Michigan State, Martinez pushed his career total to 8,166 yards, surpassing the previous career record of 7,915 yards by 2001 Heisman Trophy winner Eric Crouch.

Martinez is in the process of putting together a record-setting season for the third consecutive year. Martinez accounted for 2,596 yards of total offense as a freshman in 2010, shattering the NU frosh record, and his 2,963 total offense yards last season were the most ever by a Husker sophomore and the third-most by any player in school history. Through nine games in 2012, Martinez is averaging 289.7 yards of total offense to rank second in the Big Ten and 24th nationally.

- Martinez has thrown for 1,941 yards this season, while rushing for 666 more. His 2,607 yards of total offense are seventh on the NU single-season list, and he is just five yards from owning the junior class total offense record.

- Against Northwestern, Martinez accounted for a season-high 407 yards of total offense, including 342 yards passing and 65 on the ground. The 407 yards of total offense was the second-best total of his career and the eighth-best effort in Nebraska history. His performance earned him Big Ten Offensive Player-of-the Week honors for the third time in 2012. Martinez opened the year with a career-high 354 passing yards against Southern Miss and 364 yards of total offense.

- Martinez’s strong effort at Michigan State pushed his career totals to 5,661 passing yards and 2,505 rushing yards. In addition to moving up the Husker career record book, Martinez moved into another elite class of quarterbacks in college football history against the Spartans.

- By breaking the 2,500-yard career rushing mark, Martinez became just the 15th player in FBS history to pass for 5,000 career yards and rush for 2,500 yards. He is one of only four players to reach that milestone before their senior season, joining Antwaan Randle El of Indiana, Brad Smith of Missouri and Colin Kaepernick of Nevada.

Click on the "Game Notes" link in the related links section at the top of this page for more notes on this weekend's game.


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