Ameer Abdullah leads the Big Ten in rushing with 133.6 yards per game.
Photo by Nate Olsen/Nebraska Communications

Huskers Hit the Road for Battle with Nittany Lions

By NU Athletic Communications

STATE COLLEGE, PA. | 2:30 p.m. (CT)


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Record: 7-3, 4-2

Rankings: Coaches-NR; AP-NR
Last Game: lost to Michigan St., 41-28
Coach: Bo Pelini
Career/NU Record: 55-23/6th year 
vs. Penn State, 2-0

Record: 6-4, 3-3
Rankings: Coaches-NR; AP-NR
Last Game: def. Purdue, 45-21
Coach: Bill O'Brien
Career/PSU Record: 14-8/2nd year
vs. NU: 0-1

The Matchup
Nebraska makes its final road trip of the season on Saturday when the Huskers travel east to take on Penn State in a matchup of two of college football’s traditional powers. Game time for the contest at Penn State’s Beaver Stadium is set for 3:30 p.m. local time in State College (2:30 p.m. CT), with the game televised by BTN.

Nebraska enters the game at 7-3 overall and 4-2 in Big Ten Conference play following a 41-28 loss to Michigan State last Saturday in Lincoln. The Huskers battled the division-leading Spartans, but could not overcome five costly turnovers in the setback. The loss to the Spartans ended Nebraska’s hopes of returning to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Conference Championship Game. With two remaining regular-season games and a bowl game, Nebraska will be looking for a victory that will move them closer to a sixth straight nine-win season.

Penn State comes into the contest with a 6-4 overall mark, including a 3-3 record in Big Ten Conference play. The Nittany Lions are coming off a 45-21 victory over Purdue on Saturday at Beaver Stadium, improving to 5-1 at home this season. Penn State has won each of its three Big Ten home games, including overtime wins over Michigan and Illinois.

The Nittany Lions feature a strong passing attack that averages better than 255 yards per game, helping Penn State average 434.6 yards per game in total offense.

The Series
Nebraska has won the first two meetings between the schools as members of the Big Ten Conference and three straight overall in the series. The three-game win streak has given the Huskers an 8-7 edge in the overall series between the schools. Penn State holds a 5-2 series lead in State College.

The Coaches
Nebraska: Bo Pelini (Ohio State, ‘90) owns a 56-23 record (.709) in his sixth season. Pelini has guided NU to nine or more wins in each of his first five seasons as head coach, joining Bob Devaney and Tom Osborne in accomplishing that feat at Nebraska. With Nebraska’s win over Wyoming in the season opener, Pelini became the fifth coach in NU history to win 50 games on the NU sideline, joining Dana Bible, Bob Devaney, Tom Osborne and Frank Solich.

Penn State: Bill O’Brien (Brown, ‘92) is in his second season as the head coach at Penn State and owns a 14-8 record with the Nittany Lions. O’Brien guided Penn State to eight victories last season. Before taking over at Penn State, O’Brien served for five seasons as an assistant with the New England Patriots. He had college assistant coaching stops at Duke, Maryland, Georgia Tech and Brown.

Nebraska Football
Nebraska is 863-356-40 all-time, one of just eight schools with 800 all-time victories 
- Nebraska has won five national championships (1970, 1971, 1994, 1995, 1997).
- The Cornhuskers have won 43 conference championships.
- NU’s 49 all-time bowl appearances rank third nationally.
- Since 1970, NU has 427 wins, 24 more than any other school.
- Nebraska’s 106 football Academic All-Americans lead the nation.
- The Huskers have 110 All-Americans in school history.

Scouting Penn State
Penn State is coming off a 45-21 win over Purdue last weekend, and the Nittany Lions bring a 6-4 overall record into Saturday’s game. PSU is 3-3 in Big Ten Conference play.

Nebraska and Penn State are similar teams on paper. Both teams have defeated Illinois, Michigan and Purdue this season and both teams have also lost at Minnesota. Statistically, Penn State averages 435 yards of total offense, just six yards fewer than Nebraska. Defensively, the Nittany Lions allow 376 yards per game, only two yards more than the Huskers. Both teams have also struggled with turnovers, as Penn State ranks 99th nationally with an average turnover margin per game of -0.6, while Nebraska is 106th at -0.8.

While the teams match up statistically in yards gained and yards allowed, Penn State hasn’t been as successful as Nebraska in scoring offense or scoring defense. The Nittany Lions average 29 points per game, six fewer than Nebraska. Defensively, Penn State is surrendering an average of 27 points per game, two more than Nebraska.

The PSU offense is led by freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg, one of the nation’s top recruits last year. The Big Ten’s third-leading passer, Hackenberg has thrown for 2,399 yards this season, completing 59 percent of his passes for 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions. One of Hackenberg’s favorite targets has been All-America candidate Allen Robinson, who leads the Big Ten with 81 catches and 1,204 receiving yards. He has caught 16 more passes than any other Big Ten receiver while averaging 120.4 receiving yards per contest.

On the ground, the duo of Bill Belton and Zach Zwinak have combined for 1,521 rushing yards this fall. Belton has rushed for 796 yards and five touchdowns on one more carry than Zwinak, while Zwinak has rushed for 725 yards and a team-high 12 touchdowns, one off the Big Ten lead.

Defensively, Penn State ranks in the top five in the conference and among the top 45 teams nationally in sacks and tackles for loss. Defensive tackle DaQuan Jones is tied for fourth in the league with 11.5 TFLs this fall, while defensive end C.J. Olaniyan leads PSU with 4.0 sacks. Penn State has also been a disciplined team this season. The Nittany Lions are penalized only 33 yards per game this season, the fewest of any Big Ten team and the ninth-fewest penalty yards of any team in the nation.

Series History
Nebraska leads the all-time series with Penn State, 8-7. The Huskers have won three straight in the series, including each of the two matchups as Big Ten Conference foes. The 19th-ranked Huskers upset No. 12 Penn State, 17-14, in State College in 2011. Last year in Lincoln, 18th-ranked Nebraska rallied from a 14-point halftime deficit to defeat Penn State, 32-23. Saturday’s game will snap a streak of nine consecutive meetings dating back to 1979 where either Nebraska, Penn State or both teams were ranked at kickoff.

Neither team has won more than three straight games in the series, and Nebraska will be going for its fourth straight victory on Saturday. Penn State owns a 5-2 record in State College.

Nebraska Head Coach Bo Pelini
Bo Pelini is his sixth season as Nebraska’s head coach and owns a 56-23 record with the Huskers. Pelini added a Big Ten Legends Division title in 2012 to three straight Big 12 North Division crowns from 2008 to 2010, when Pelini was the the first coach in the history of the Big 12 to win at least a share of a division title in each of his first three years.

He has guided Nebraska to at least nine wins each of his first five seasons in Lincoln, and three 10-win seasons. With the win over Wyoming in the opener, Pelini reached 50 career wins at Nebraska, making him just the fifth Husker coach to reach that milestone, joining Tom Osborne, Bob Devaney, Frank Solich and Dana X. Bible.

Pelini took charge of the Huskers after a highly successful five-year run as a collegiate defensive coordinator, including orchestrating NU’s defensive efforts in 2003. Pelini picked up his first college head coaching victory as NU’s interim coach in the 2003 Alamo Bowl against Michigan State.

Following his one season at Nebraska, Pelini served as the co-defensive coordinator at Oklahoma in 2004, helping the Sooners to the Big 12 title and BCS title game. He then followed with three seasons as the defensive coordinator at LSU. With the Tigers, Pelini led three consecutive defenses to No. 3 national rankings in total defense. He culminated his time in Baton Rouge by helping the Tigers to the 2007 national championship.

In addition to his five seasons as an assistant at the collegiate level, Pelini coached in the NFL for nine seasons, serving three years each with the San Francisco 49ers, New England Patriots and Green Bay Packers. Pelini was a team captain and four-year letterman as a safety at Ohio State from 1987 to 1990.

Penn State Head Coach Bill O'Brien
Bill O’Brien is in his second season at Penn State, his first head coaching job. He owns a 14-8 record at PSU, including an 0-1 mark against Nebraska. Despite facing NCAA sanctions that include reduced scholarships, O’Brien guided the Nittany Lions to an 8-4 record in 2012, although Penn State did not advance to a bowl game due to its NCAA sanctions. PSU is 6-4 in 2013, with three of its losses coming to top-25 opponents.

Before taking the Penn State job in January of 2012, 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.

Huskers, Nittany Lions Square off for Final Time Until 2017
Nebraska and Penn State have met each of the first three seasons the Huskers have been in the Big Ten. While the schools are in opposite divisions, they have been protected cross-over opponents. With the Big Ten realigning its divisions for next season, it will no longer have protected cross-over games. The next time the schools are scheduled to meet is in 2017 at Penn State. In fact, the 2017 meeting is the only matchup scheduled between the schools between 2014 and 2019.

Huskers Look for Strong November Finish
Nebraska opened the month of November with a pair of dramatic victories over Northwestern and Michigan. Despite a setback against Michigan State, Nebraska remains in position for another strong performance in November. The loss to the Spartans ended Nebraska’s seven-game November win streak.

- Nebraska is 18-5 in the month of November in Bo Pelini’s six seasons as head coach, including perfect records in the month of November in 2009 and 2012.

- Nebraska’s streak of seven straight November wins that ended last week was NU’s second-longest under Pelini. Nebraska won nine straight November games from 2008 to 2010.

- Nebraska has posted fourth-quarter comebacks in four of the seven wins in its current November streak.

- Nebraska is 8-3 in November since joining the Big Ten, including a pair of victories over Penn State.

Nebraska Among Big Ten Leaders in Wins Since Joining Conference
Nebraska stands at 4-2 in Big Ten play in 2013. Nebraska has won 16 of 22 regular-season Big Ten games since joining the conference in 2011. The 16 wins since the start of the 2011 season are tied for the second-most Big Ten victories in that time period.

Nebraska captured the Legends Division crown and made a trip to the Big Ten Conference Championship Game in 2012. The Huskers have won 10 of their last 12 regular-season Big Ten games heading into Saturday’s matchup at Penn State.

NU Shoots for Sixth Straight Year With Nine or More Wins
Nebraska posted a 10-4 record in 2012, giving the Huskers nine or more victories in each of Bo Pelini’s first five seasons as head coach. The streak of five straight nine-win seasons puts Nebraska in an elite class nationally. Nebraska sits at 7-3 overall with two regular-season games and a bowl game left on its 2013 slate. The Huskers will need to win two of three games to continue their nine-win streak.

- Nebraska is one of four schools that has won at least nine games each of the past five seasons. The others in that group include Alabama, Boise State and Oregon. Alabama and Oregon have secured nine-win seasons in 2013, while Boise State and Nebraska sit at seven wins each.

- Pelini has guided Nebraska to 10-win seasons in three of the last four years.

- The five straight years of at least 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 has 47 nine-win seasons in school history, including 39 since 1969.

Abdullah Running at Impressive Pace in 2013
Junior I-back Ameer Abdullah has been one of the nation’s top running backs in 2013. The Homewood, Ala., native has emerged as a strong candidate for All-America honors and is one of 10 semifinalists for the Doak Walker Award.

Abdullah has nine 100-yard rushing games, including a career-high 225 rushing yards against Illinois. Abdullah has rushed for 1,336 yards and seven touchdowns in 2013, while averaging an impressive 6.5 yards per carry. Abdullah’s average of 133.6 rushing yards per game leads the Big Ten and ranks sixth nationally. In conference games only, Abdullah averages 145.2 yards per game to rank second in the league in rushing.

- With 1,336 rushing yards through 10 games, Abdullah’s rushing total stacks up well in recent Husker history. His 10-game rushing total is the sixth-best for Nebraska players since World War II.

- Abdullah was the first Nebraska player to reach 1,000 rushing yards in eight or fewer games since Ahman Green in 1997.

- Abdullah is well on his way to one of the top rushing seasons in school history. He currently sits in ninth place on the single-season rushing list and needs 162 rushing yards in the season’s final three games to reach the top five on that chart.

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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