Nebraska rallies in second half to top Penn State
Lincoln, NE (Sports Network) - Taylor Martinez threw the game-winning touchdown pass to Jamal Turner early in the fourth quarter, as No. 18 Nebraska rallied to upend Penn State, 32-23, at Memorial Stadium.
The Cornhuskers (8-2, 5-1 Big Ten) used their vaunted running game in windy conditions to rally from a 14-point halftime deficit and come away with their fourth straight win.
Martinez gained 104 of Nebraska's 267 rushing yards while passing for 171 more on 12-of-20 throws. Ameer Abdullah carried the ball 31 times for 116 yards and Imani Cross scored twice on the ground.
Matt McGloin tossed for 240 yards with a touchdown and an interception on 18- of-37 attempts for Penn State (6-4, 4-2), which turned the ball over twice in the red zone to fall for the second time in three games.
"You can't turn the ball over inside the red zone," Penn State head coach Bill O'Brien said. "At the end of the day you have to come away with scores when you are playing Nebraska, a team that is probably going to score a lot of points."
Zach Zwinak ran for 141 yards and a TD on 21 carries in defeat.
For the third time in four games the Cornhuskers overcame a fourth-quarter deficit to win and stay atop the Legends Division in the Big Ten.
They trailed, 23-20, following Sam Ficken's 35-yard field goal midway through in the third, and Martinez lost a fumble in the end zone on the first play of the fourth.
But when Nebraska got the ball back, Martinez hit Kyler Reed down the middle for a 56-yard gain down to the 10-yard line. On 3rd-and-goal from the five, Martinez fired a strike to Turner in the end zone, giving the Cornhuskers their first lead with 10:57 remaining.
Penn State drove down the field and nearly regained the lead when Matt Lehman took a short pass and dove for the goal line. Just as the tight end reached the plane, however, the ball was knocked out and Nebraska safety Daimion Stafford recovered in the end zone. The play was upheld upon review.
"We felt like it was over the goal line, they (the referees) did not think they could reverse it though," O'Brien said. "There wasn't enough evidence to reverse the call."
Brett Maher's 69-yard punt pinned Penn State at its own 2-yard line with 5 1/2 minutes remaining, and on the second snap McGloin was pressured by Cameron Meredith and forced to throw the ball away. The quarterback was whistled for intentional grounding in the end zone, resulting in a safety.
The Nittany Lions got the ball back at their own 20 with 3:44 remaining, but quickly turned the ball over on downs, and Maher tacked on a 33-yard field goal in the final minute.
Penn State, playing exactly one year after legendary head coach Joe Paterno was fired, scored less than two minutes in when Zwinak broke through the line of scrimmage and sprinted 50 yards up the middle for a touchdown.
Zwinak lost a fumble in the red zone on the next possession, but the turnover was one of the few mistakes made by the visitors in the first half.
Ficken made a 27-yard field goal to give Penn State a 10-6 lead midway through the second quarter, and a muffed punt by Nebraska's Tim Marlowe a little later set up Jesse James' 10-yard touchdown catch.
A three-and-out followed by a bad punt allowed the Nittany Lions to tack on a 38-yard Ficken field goal just before the half.
The Cornhuskers settled for a pair of Maher field goals in the first half -- a 32-yarder on its first possession and a 27-yarder to cap an 84-yard march in the second quarter.
Things began turning in their favor when Cross finished off an 8-play, 75-yard drive with a 1-yard plunge over the goal line early in the third quarter.
Stafford picked off McGloin on the ensuing drive and returned the pick 22 yards to the Penn State four, and Cross took it in from the two for a 20-20 tie.
"To pull even...basically within the first six minutes (of the second half), was big for us psychologically," Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini said.
O'Brien was trying to join Earle Bruce as the only first-year Big Ten coaches since 1950 to win their first four conference road games ... Penn State has outscored their opponents, 157-39, in the first half ... Nebraska is 7-0 at home ... Penn State's Allen Robinson led all receivers with six catches for 97 yards ... Nebraska converted half of its 18 third-down tries ... Penn State went 6-of-15 on third down conversions ... Nebraska held the ball for 34:19.
11/10 23:42:05 ET