Taylor Martinez added 56 yards on the ground on 19 carries and was mistake free through the air with 143 yards on 13-26 passing. Kelly Bell led NU’s receivers with four catches for 42 yards, while Kyler Reed added three catches for 40 yards.
The victory over Penn State marked the highest ranked team Nebraska has defeated away from home since a victory over sixth-ranked Tennessee in the 2000 Fiesta Bowl and the highest ranked team Nebraska has defeated on its home field since a 27-14 win at second-ranked Washington in 1997.
Playing in front of 107,903 fans, the second-largest crowd ever for a Nebraska football game, and an ESPN national television audience, the Blackshirts got stops on Penn State's final two offensive drives to secure the win.
After Penn State cut the Husker lead to 17-14, Nebraska went 3-and-out, giving the ball back to PSU on their own 11-yard line following a 61-yard punt from Brett Maher. The Nittany Lions were moving the ball well, until they were stopped for no gain on two straight plays at their own 37. After being stopped on 3rd-and-1, PSU took a timeout, but it did them no good as Lavonte David posted the biggest of his nine tackles on the day with a stuff of Silas Redd to deny PSU a first down.
Nebraska would get the ball back with 1:49 on the clock and a chance to end the game.
The Huskers would force Penn State to use the rest of its timeouts, but a fourth-down stop on a run by Burkhead on 4th-and-2 from the 29 gave Penn State the ball back with a chance to win the game.
Following an incomplete pass on first down, the Husker secondary was flagged for defensive holding, giving PSU 1st-and-10 at the their own 37. Matt McGloin would complete just one more pass for nine yards and would get no closer as an incomplete pass to Justin Brown ended the Nittany Lions comeback attempt on Senior Day.
The Huskers’ eventual game-winning score came off a 14-yard option run from Martinez to Burkhead in the third quarter following the first turnover of the game.
After the Huskers opened the second half with a punt, Penn State took over on its own 30 and had crossed into Nebraska territory with 1st-and-10 on the NU 41. The drive ended on the next play when Cameron Meredith forced a fumble on a seven-yard sack of McGloin that was recovered by Eric Martin.
The Husker offense would follow with eight straight running play on the legs of Martinez and Burkhead that would cover 52 yards, including 31 yards on the final two plays of the drive.
At the time it looked as if the Huskers have started to put the game away with a 17-0 lead, but Penn State would answer with 14 unanswered points.
Following the Burkhead touchdown, Penn State responded with a nine-play drive that covered 82 yards in 3:36. The biggest play of the drive came on a 40-yard pass from McGloion to Derek Moye to the NU 5. Stephfon Green would scamper into the endzone two plays later from five yards out.
After each team punted twice, Nebraska was just about to cross into Penn State territory when a botched handoff from Burkhead to Tyler Legate on 2nd-and-2 was recovered by Penn State’s Jordan Hill.
The Nittany Lions would march 51 yards in nine plays to cut the NU lead to 17-14, capped by a six-yard run from Green. During the drive, Penn State went deep into the play book with a reverse pass back to the quarterback. Curtis Drake completed a 16-yard pass to McGloin down to the NU six-yard line, which was followed on the next play with Green's score.
The Nittany Lions had the first scoring opportunity of the game on a 47-yard field goal attempt midway through the first quarter. The Huskers had kept PSU on its half to the field until quarterback McGloin got a lucky bounce on a 3rd-and-7 pass from his own 33-yard line.
McGloin's pass was nearly intercepted by Nebraska's Ciante Evans, but the tipped ball instead landed in hands of Drake for 31 yards to the Nebraska 36. Four plays later Anthony Fera would come on for the field goal attempt and miss wide right.
After just two first downs in the first quarter, the Huskers started to find a rhythm on their opening drive of the second quarter after forcing a PSU punt.
Starting on their own 27, Martinez and the Huskers picked up four first downs on the drive, including three of the four on three consecutive plays. The drive would stall following a three-yard rush from Martinez on 3rd-and-11 from the 23-yard line, but Maher would convert on a 41-yard field goal to give NU the early 3-0 lead.
The Huskers would extend their lead to 10-0 as the first half was winding down after coving 80 yards in 12 plays, capped by a two-yard touchdown run by Ameer Abdullah.
After forcing Penn State to punt for the fifth time in the first half, the Huskers took over on their own 20-yard line with 3:33 on the clock. NU would start with four straight rushing plays before Martinez hit Reed for 24 yards down the sideline to setup 1st-and-10 at the PSU 44. Martinez was 3-4 on the drive for 49 yards, with all three completions to different receivers.
Penn State had an opportunity to hold Nebraska to a field goal attempt with the Huskers facing 3rd-and-9 on the 14, but Nittany Lion safety Nick Sukay was flagged for pass interference on a throw from Martinez to Tim Marlowe. NU would score on the following play as Burkhead would go under center and toss the ball to Abdullah for the two-yard plunge.
Nebraska returns to road action next week when the Huskers travel to Ann Arbor to take on Michigan. Kickoff time between the Huskers and Wolverines is set for 11 a.m. (central) on ESPN/ESPN2.
Final: #19 Nebraska 17, #12 Penn State 14
Saturday, Nov. 12, 2011
Beaver Stadium (University Park)
First Quarter (Tied, 0-0)
Second Quarter (NEB, 10-0)
NEB - 10:55 - Brett Maher 41 FG - 9 plays, 50 yards, 5:53, NEB 3-0
NEB - 0:44 - Ameer Abdullah 2 run (Maher kick) - 12 plays, 80 yards, 2:49 NEB 10-0
Third Quarter Quarter (NEB, 17-7)
NEB - 8:51 - Rex Burkhead 14 run (Maher kick) - 8 plays, 52 yards, 2:54, NEB 17-0
PSU - 5:07 - Stephfon Green 5 run (Fera kick) - 9 plays, 82 yards, 3:36, NEB 17-7
Fourth Quarter (NEB, 17-14)
PSU- 5:42 - Stephfon Green 6 run (Fera kick) - 9 plays, 51 yards, 3:53, NEB 17-14
Final: #19 Nebraska 17, #12 Penn State 14
Time of Game: 3:27
Game Start: 11:03 a.m. (central)