The much anticipated matchup between the 0-3 Penn State Nittany Lions and 0-2 Nebraska Cornhuskers is just a day away as the Nittany Lions and Cornhuskers are set to kickoff at 12:00 p.m. EST (11:00 a.m. local time) on Saturday. Both teams are looking for their first win of the season after disappointing starts.
In our last minute preparations for the game, we caught up with Andy Ketterson of Corn Nation to get a inside look on the Huskers.
1) So as you know, we have a bit of a quarterback issue happening in Happy Valley with Sean Clifford’s poor play but it seems that in Lincoln, a different quarterback issue is happening. Both Adrian Martinez and Luke McCaffrey have played this season and it sounds like fans want to see McCaffrey more so than Martinez. What are your thoughts on the position and what do you expect to see this weekend?
I have no idea what’s going on in practice, but I’m going to guess McCaffrey gets the start based on completion percentage and nothing else.(76% - 57%).First , the good news. Rushing-wise, they’re #1 & #2 on the team, both averaging over 7 YPC. Martinez is clearly healthier than he was even on Day 1 in 2019 and is running much more quickly and decisively than last season. McCaffrey has gained a chunk of his yards lined up as a RB and has a little more speed but probably gives up at least 20 lbs to Martinez.Passing-wise...well...ick. The 76% completion percentage for McCaffrey isn’t an accident. He is showing much more touch than Martinez who is indecisive, inaccurate and looks like a mess at times when he has time to work. However, they’re both throwing nothing but dink and dunks averaging less than 10 yds per completion (can blame Frost for that) and neither has a TD pass this year. So McCaffrey may get the nod but with a couple fumbles to boot, he hasn’t been playing like the messiah some are making him out to be.
2) It’s safe to say a good portion of the nation has soured on Scott Frost as the next big thing in coaching. This year hasn’t gotten off to the best of starts to start the least, how is the Nebraska fan base reacting to this season so far and what’s the overall perception of Frost at this point as well?
It’s mixed. (Except in the opinion of the Riley-weenies who still weep at his firing and howl after every loss Frost is no better. They are idiots and we wish they would follow him to Corvallis or the Unicorn Half-Pro League or whatever.)There has been improvement. Our lines on both sides of the ball are much stronger and quicker than the flaccid mess left 3 years ago. The talent has been upgraded. And the first two 2020 games have had positives - the Huskers averaged 6+ YPP against Ohio St and outgained Northwestern by over 100 yards. We’ve closed the competitive gap but JUST CAN’T GET THAT BIG WIN.Some people are starting to howl but AD Bill Moos is sending the message by renewing his contract each year he is all in on Frost. Scream all they want, Moos has tied his job to the man and for the near future, the administration has his back.
3) This Nebraska offense has been disappointing in their two games this season, what have been the issues there and do you think it’s something they can fix before the season gets away from them?
I won’t rehash the above but moving the ball hasn’t been the big issue. They’ve managed to do it fairly well against two pretty good defenses but turnovers, penalties and red zone play have been absolute killers. If they can bring the first two under control and find a way into the end zone when they get the ball inside the 10, this thing could take off.But those have been some pretty constant “if’s”, dammit.
4) Nebraska’s defense the last few years has been pretty bad at times and after a tough performance against Ohio State, they looked solid last week against Northwestern. Is this a performance that shows their possibly turning a corner or do you think they’re more likely to look like the defense they have the last few years?
This one tears me some because I can’t stand the 3-4 and I really can’t stand it in the B1G. However, the defensive front and LB’s both actually played pretty well against OSU (I know, I know, 52 points) and the DB’s lining up two time zones off the Buckeye receivers was the killer. They all played very well against Northwestern for the most part, but I’m not necessarily sold on the Wildcats offense. The Blackshirts have actually been pressuring mobile QB’s and getting some licks in when they don’t get the sack. The LB’s have been closing on the ball and not allowing all kinds of hell if the play goes past the line. I’m not ready to say I’m confident this weekend, but I’m not running up the white flag mentally so maybe that marks improvement?
5) What does Penn State need to do on offense to attack Nebraska’s defense successfully? What does the Nittany Lions defense need to do to stop the Huskers offense?
It sounds like Football 101, but if Penn St can establish the running game and mix things up a little so the defensive front can’t pin their ears back and throw in as many blitz packages, which have actually been pretty successful, it could be a long day for the Blackshirts. Defensively, I would look to contain Husker QB’s on the rush, breaking down and keeping them in the backfield instead of bullrushing and going for the sack/killshot which both QB’s have been avoiding pretty easily. For some reason, we haven’t been trying to establish Dedrick Mills with any consistency and the receiver corps is a mix of experienced receivers who know the routes but can’t get open (exception: Wandale Robinson) and rookies who are athletic as all hell but struggle to learn the routes. Contain the QB’s and force both the ball in the air and other weapons to be used.
6) How do you Saturday’s game playing out and who do you have picking up their first victory of the season?
I don’t know if a sign of good things happening starts with the HC throwing an open competition announcement at every position. Until something different goes down, I’m going to say look for the same script. The Husker’s will compete. They will fight and make mistakes, kick FG’s instead of scoring TD’s, outgain the Lions 470- 400 and go to 0-3. Penn St. 27 Huskers 19.