Penn State offense finds its "swagger" against Nebraska
What to make of Penn State's 56-44 win over Nebraska, which produced the highest-scoring game ever at Beaver Stadium?
Was the offense that good? Was the defense an issue?
We take a look at those questions.
Back to their game: Running back Saquon Barkley said Saturday that Penn State's offense had not played with its usual "swagger" of late.
That returned quite impressively against Nebraska. The Lions rolled up 56 points and 32 first downs (their highest Big Ten totals since 2005) and 609 yards (the most since 1995) in an on-command game against an over-matched team.
"Going into this week, we felt we'd get off to a really good start and kind of be able to pour it on at times," quarterback Trace McSorley said. "We were able to do that."
Challenged last week by coach James Franklin, the offensive line turned Barkley loose for 158 yards and three touchdowns. Perhaps most importantly, Barkley didn't have a negative-yardage play among his 17 carries. McSorley, meanwhile, comfortably completed 24 of 36 passes for 325 yards while running for 46 more in nasty conditions.
This was Penn State's offense at its 2016-17 best.
About that defense: Nebraska scored three touchdowns in the final 6:32 (two in the last 1:20) to turn a 32-point rout into a 12-point final margin.
Something about that sound familiar? In 1994, Indiana scored three touchdowns in the final 6:22 (two in the last 1:49) to turn a rout into a six-point margin. Penn State fell to No. 2 in the Coaches Poll after the game and finished the season behind, yes, national champion Nebraska.
In both games, Penn State's second- and third-team defensive players were on the field for most of the points. Nebraska recovered an onside kick after scoring late in the fourth quarter and reached the end zone again on the final play.
Further, Penn State isn't chasing a national championship anymore this season, so the rankings impact is far less important.
Still, there were some warning signs to note. Penn State's defense mostly flattened Nebraska into the third quarter, allowing just 77 first-half yards and holding Nebraska without a first down for six consecutive possessions.
The Cornhuskers, though, took advantage of Penn State's relaxed coverage in the second half. Quarterback Tanner Lee went 7 for 7 for 139 yards in the third quarter alone on his way to 399. Receiver Stanley Morgan caught 7 passes for 185 yards, the second-highest receiving total in Nebraska history. The Cornhuskers' 44 points were the most Penn State has allowed at home. Ever.
How to interpret that?
Franklin said the finish left "a bad taste in your mouth," though he tried to place it in context.
"You leave the [first team] in and people say you're running up the score," Franklin said. "You put the [second team] in and you give up  points there late. So I'm still not completely sure when the right time is to make those changes."