* Nebraska looks to stay atop of the Legends Division.
* The Huskers look to make it four straight after losing to Ohio State on the road.
* Nebraska beat Penn State 17-14 in State College.
* Husker running back Rex Burkhead is doubtful with a MCL sprain.
Bo Pelini Thursday practice:
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Associated Press Overview:
Head Coach: Bill O'Brien PSU's record in 2012: 6-3 (4-1)
What's at stake: This stacks up as the toughest remaining regular-season game for Nebraska, which has the inside track to the Legends Division title. Cornhuskers can’t afford to commit the turnovers and penalties that forced them to make big second-half comebacks to post three of their four Big Ten wins. Penn State, ineligible to play in the Big Ten title game, is going for its fourth conference road win.
KEY MATCHUP: Penn State front seven vs. Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez. Martinez has overcome his league-high seven interceptions in Big Ten play with big runs and clutch passes. Nittany Lions have to clamp down on him to have a chance at winning in Memorial Stadium. Penn State has recorded four sacks in two of its last three games and Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges are among the best linebackers in the Big Ten.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Penn State: QB Matt McGloin. The senior’s career has been resuscitated in coach Bill O’Brien’s pro-style offense. He’s thrown 18 TD passes, and his 2,436 yards passing are most in the Big Ten. But other than the comeback win over Northwestern, his victories have come over undistinguished opposition. If McGloin shines against Nebraska, he’ll be a legit contender for all-conference honors.
Nebraska: RB Ameer Abdullah. He’s been better than expected as the primary replacement for the injured Rex Burkhead, rushing for more than 100 yards in each of his four starts. But the 5-foot-9, 185-pound sophomore has taken a pounding, and the question is whether his body will hold up late in the season.
FACTS & FIGURES: Penn State DT Jordan Hill (knee) and TE Kyle Carter (foot) have been listed as day-to-day. Nebraska’s Burkhead (knee) hadn’t practiced as of mid-week. ... McGloin has thrown for 200-plus yards in a school-record seven straight games. .. Nittany Lions have won three Big Ten road games by a combined 107-30 (Illinois, Iowa, Purdue). ... PSU WR Allen Robinson leads the Big Ten with 57 catches for 689 yards. ... Nebraska has had a 100-yard rusher in eight straight games, the longest streak since a 20-game stretch over 1999-2000. ... Nebraska is 13-4 in November games under fifth-year coach Bo Pelini. Three of those four losses were on the road against ranked teams. ... WR Kenny Bell has 11 catches that have covered at least 20 yards, with all six of his TD receptions 25 yards or longer. - Associated Press
Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini presser
On how the team builds off the emotional come back against Michigan State
"You get better. You continue to coach. There’s no magic wand. You just go back to work. You go back to work the next day and build off of the positive things that happened and fix the things that need fixed and keep stressing the things that need to be accomplished to move forward and get better. You keep working to get better as a football team. For all the positives, there are things that still need to get better. We need to get more consistent and the only way I know how to do that is to keep practicing and stressing it and working day in-and-day out to get better."
On if the team has a personality that makes it capable of all the come backs it has had
"I think the guys have a lot of confidence. I think there’s a lot of heart in this football team. They don’t panic and stop believing that they’re going to be able to get it done. I’m not saying we haven’t had those qualities in the past, but I think we’re more capable. I think we’re a pretty good football team. We just have to avoid putting ourselves in tough situations. I don’t think there’s any magic potion that you take to avoid that. You just keep stressing it and working at it and try to continually strive for a higher level of execution."
On if he sees the two minute drill improving in practice
"Yes, it’s something that we do a pretty good amount of especially in the pre-season camp. We do it at least once a week. It was ironic that I looked up and there was 1:20 left on the clock and when we do it that’s about what we put up there. Sometimes we give them one time out, two timeouts and sometimes no timeouts. We’ve been in that situation and we’ve been able to execute and obviously having a quarterback (Taylor Martinez) who you have a lot of confidence in and has a lot of experience; it felt like we were ok. I feel like he managed the situation really well."
On if Taylor (Martinez) has something that makes him proficient in those situations
"I think Taylor is pretty calm and has a lot of confidence. Let’s face it; he’s getting better as a football player. As you get better, your confidence grows and you have some success and you have a belief that you can go into a situation like that and have success. I don’t exactly want to find us in that situation again. He’s a guy who can execute when need be."
On if the offense’s fast pace helps with the two minute situations
"Yes. We’re used to being up on the ball and going fast so I think that does help you."
On if he’s learned to coach a two minute situation better
"Yes, I work on it a lot almost every week. It feels like I’ve been doing this for twenty years now. Every situation is a little bit different. You have to look at the situation and try to make a decision. When do you use your timeouts? How do you use your timeouts? Look at the situation and hope you make the right decisions. I do think that it does help us that we were a slower paced offense that made a lot of audibles at the line and killed time and weren’t prepared to handle those situations because we weren’t used to going fast and now we’re up on the ball a lot and we’re going at the line a lot and our signaling happens a lot easier. You’re able to get a lot more plays accomplished in a lot shorter amount of time without jumping through a lot of hoops so that helps you."
On when Beck became the coordinator if he told Beck he wanted the offense to go fast
"Well we talked about it and I think Tim wanted it too. He likes the no huddle. What I thought would be important to do is to change tempo when we wanted to change tempo and not be locked into doing anything one way all the time and being able to mix it up. I know how that affects you defensively and I thought that was important for us moving forward offensively."
On what the biggest changes are that he’s seen in Jamal Turner
"Jamal’s gotten a lot better as a football player and as a receiver. He’s a guy who played as a true freshman and had played quarterback his whole career. As talented as he was and is, he had a lot to learn and he still does. He’s still growing as a receiver, but he ran a nice route on that play. I think he has a lot better understanding of what we’re asking him to do and what defenses are trying to do with him playing at the slot. It takes a good feel to play in there."
On if it was a tougher adjustment for Jamal than Jamal thought it would be going to receiver
"Yes, it’s not easy. He’s a guy who has really good football instincts. Last year he was trying to learn the system and figure out the techniques and intricacies it take to be a good receiver. It’s a lot more than just running fast and running good routes and catching the ball. You have to have some savvy and have to understand how to find holes in zones. Especially when you’re lined up on the inside because you have a lot more things to deal with in there, how to bend in your routes and how to get open versus different coverages. I think he has a lot more understanding of that now."
On how (Tim) Marlowe felt after the game
"He’s sore, but if I know Tim he’ll make it for Saturday. We’re going to give him today off for sure. It’s his shoulder."
On Rex’s (Burkhead) status and if they’re going to try to get him practicing
"Yes, it just depends on how he keeps progressing. He’s progressing well and if he’s feeling 100%, that’s when we’ll put him back out there."
On what the team will do to recover for Penn State from the physical games the past couple weeks
"We did some things last week to help our guys recover a little bit. As the season goes on, you can’t ignore the fact that it’s been a physical year and it’s now going onto week nine or 10 with the bye. You have to keep that in mind. We’ll make a few small adjustments."
On if they had to change that coming into the Big Ten since it’s more physical
"No, I think you always have to keep that in mind as the year goes on and not ignore the fact of the physicality and the time on your legs. You get injuries and guys trying to take more snaps here and there. You have to look at each situation and make sure you get your work done and get prepared because that’s what’s going to help you play well on Saturday. Whenever you find the chance, you have to find ways to maybe take a little bit of a load off at times."
On his defensive line coach (Rick Kaczenski)
"I think he’s done a great job. I think he’s a heck of a D-line coach. I think our guys have gotten better and have played better the last couple weeks. Hopefully that will continue. We’ve have to mix and match a little bit here and there. We’ve had some guys that have played a dual role and we’ll need that as the season closes out."
On how the results speaks to the defensive line coach’s ability to get the players to do what he wants
"He’s a good communicator and a good coach. The way we coach techniques and whether you’re playing the end spot or playing inside, techniques determine where we’ll ask you to play and how we’ll ask them to play. Techniques haven’t changed a whole lot, but it takes time and effort to get them to understand all the different responsibilities when it comes to your pressures and all the different calls that can be made."
On why recruiting junior college guys is important
"We feel really good about our young guys, first and foremost. The guys that are in the program right now, I think it’s a talented group, a really talented group. I think there’s a little bit of a gap there and we’re not just going to take some junior college guys. If we find the right guy, the guy that’s mature and we feel can come in and help us immediately, we’ll take a look at that. I’m in no hurry to do that. I think we’re looking and doing our homework but that’s not necessarily our route, trust me."
On if Rex is pushing to play or being patient
"I think Rex pushes to do everything, but I also think he’s being smart on it. We’re making sure he’s being smart on it. I haven’t said much to him about it and I’m not going to. I don’t want him to feel pressure from me or from anything else. He knows his body and that’s between Rex and the trainers and doctors first and foremost. I’m behind him and we’re behind him 100%. One thing I know about Rex is if he feels he can play, he’s going to play. He’s been pushing really, really hard in his rehab and I know he’s getting better, but I just don’t think he’s quite there yet."
On how he’d describe Rex’s status against Penn State
"I think it’s day-to-day. It’s hard to put a finger on it. He’s been doing his rehab, he’ll go back out today and do some field work. Each day you just don’t know."
On if (Ameer) Abdullah has been able to compensate for Rex
"Yes, I think Ameer has played really well. Obviously Rex Burkhead is a heck of a football player and you’re a better football team when you have him, there’s no question. That’s not taking anything from Ameer, he’s a good player. You always want to have as many good football players as you possibly can, going into every game."
On what ways the team can play smarter
"We made some mistakes with our level of execution and made some bone-head mistakes in that game. I can name specific examples but I don’t know if it’s a lack of focus. Sometimes I think that we’re our own worst enemy. When a guy comes off and he knows exactly what he did wrong and he just lost his concentration or focus for a second, that can’t happen. It kills you. It’s not from the lack of want to. You see how our football team is. Our guys know it’s really important to them and they work hard at it. To play a great football game, you have to have a high level of mental toughness, especially these days with all the things you’re going to see."
On if it’s more the offense or the defense
"I think its spread across the board. It wasn’t just one guy or position group, it’s a guy here or a guy there."
On if it is possible to overemphasize in practice to focus on not getting called for penalties
"I don’t know about that. We talk about it all the time. I don’t have the list of penalties in front of me, but obviously we weren’t the only ones out there being called for penalties. I think it kind of goes back to what Dirk (Chatelain) said earlier, there are some penalties you can live with but the careless one, those are the ones you can’t live with. Things that can be avoided should be avoided. If a guy has a penalty from being aggressive, then I’ll live with that. That’s part of the game. Some of the pass interferences and those types of things, with guys playing coverage, those are judgment calls. I don’t change how we coach that. We try to coach them a little bit on it, but you can’t be so cautious that you let them catch the ball on you all day. The ones that I look at are careless penalties that can be avoided. Those things need to be avoided and we need to be better in those areas. One is too many in my opinion."
On if the team has to adjust on the fly since some penalties, like pass interference, are so subjective
"I don’t. We play the way we play. Sometimes there are things you have to live with. There are times when it can be avoided. There are times when it’s a tough call. There are times when it’s called and sometimes when it’s not. It’s not an easy thing to coach."
On how the team can turn the turnover margin over and use it in their favor
"I don’t know. It’s not something that we stress big time. We had a couple opportunities for more takeaways the other day and we got one. Obviously, the interceptions, you don’t want to see that happen. Sometimes you just have to keep working at it. There’s nothing magical about it. You keep stressing it and hope that you’re going to get what you stress. It’s something that I’ve thought a lot about and we talk about it all the time. If I had a magic wand it would have been fixed a long time ago."
On if that is priority number one to take the team to the next level
"Absolutely, no doubt. I think that it is the number one thing that equates to winning and losing. We’ve been able to overcome that a few times. We talk about it every week, turnover margin and penalties and winning those two areas. I’ve studied a lot of football and been around a lot of football for a lot of years and those are two things that highly equate to winning and losing. We’ve been fortunate to overcome that a couple times over the past few weeks, but percentages show you’re not going to be able to overcome that a lot."
On how (Penn State Head Coach) Bill O’Brien has done this year taking over at Penn State
"I think he’s done a phenomenal job with what he came into and the situation he walked into. It shows the type of football coach he is, and also shows the type of character with the guys of that program that they’ve stuck together and they’ve done a heck of a job from the players and coaching staff to the new athletic director to Penn State as a whole. How they’ve handled the situation, it’s the toughest situation you could possibly imagine and I think they have done a phenomenal job of managing it and overcoming it."
On if the defense is getting better in the bigger picture
"There’s no question, we’ve gotten better. Our standards are really high. We’ve gotten better."
On what the defense is doing better from a year ago
"You name it. I think we’ve gotten better in every area. I think you have to be consistently good. We’ve been more consistent and we’re working to get even better. Our tackling has been better, we’ve been playing physical up front and we’ve been challenging receivers. I think we’re No. 1 in the country in pass efficiency defense and we’ve been challenging people. There are a lot of positives there, but what we have to do is avoid the careless mistakes."
On what Will Compton has meant to the defense playing for years since (Ndamukong) Suh was here
"Will means a lot. You look at the guys that have been around Will, like P.J. Smith. There are some guys who have been around here a while and they’ve been leaders. They’ve done a really good job. Not just on the field, but off the field as well. I think that’s a big part of it. A big part of your football team is not just what happens on Saturday or the practice field, but it’s what guys are doing and what the leaders are trying to do to solidify the culture you’re trying to establish in your program. That’s a big part of college football these days."
On if he has a pretty good sense of what Penn State offense does
"Yes, I have a pretty good sense of what they do. They do what they do and they try to do it well. They try to keep it fairly simple for the quarterback. I think he’s coached well. They’re going to pound the football at you. They’re going to run the ball. They’re going to run their play actions and I have a pretty good sense of what they do. Obviously I haven’t been coaching against these guys for a long time, but you just have to go off of what you see."
On if they’re offensive line is as good as he’s seen this year
"They’re a good coached, really physical offensive line. They do a good job up front. They don’t run a bunch of schemes, but what they do, they do well."
On if he has a sense of how he wants to match up against they’re package of tight ends
"Yes. They use a lot of them and they’re part of the equation for sure."
On Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin
"I think he’s coached well. I think that he’s a lot better football player than he was a year ago. He understands what they’re doing and how to do it and where they’re going with the football, making quick decisions. That’s what you like to see. He doesn’t make a lot of mistakes and understands how to make the system work for him."
On if he’s surprised with how good Penn State has been this year coming out of last year’s situation
"They have good football players. They hired a good coach. I think that he’s done a great job. I think their staff has done a great job. It says a lot for how they’ve handled the situation and how they’ve come together. It wasn’t easy but I think they’ve done remarkably well, considering."
On if he can relate to Bill O’Brien coming into a situation of a team in a bad situation
"I don’t know. His situation was a lot different than mine. Any time you take over a program and most of the time when you walk into a program, there’s a change of coaches for a reason. His situation was very unique compared to what I came into."
On what he remembers most from last year’s game
"That was a crazy time. There were a lot of emotions that were flowing through me that day and leading up to that game. For them, I can’t even imagine. That was a unique experience to be a part of. It was a tragedy that was a lot bigger than the football game."
On what feedback he got from Penn State and their fans and administration helping them on that day
"Well we hope we did. We hope so. We just tried to do what we believe this program presents and handle it with as much class as we could and be as supportive and we possibly could, given the circumstances. Another Big Ten institution was going through a tough time and you want to rally around each other and be there. That’s what we tried to do. The feedback we got coming out of it was very good. It wasn’t about how it made us look or anything else, in my opinion, but it was about doing the right thing. As a program, I think we did everything we could to do the right thing."
Big Red Report Prediction:
Nebraska 31...Penn State 21 (Harvey)
*** Penn State is currently No. 14 in the country in scoring defense, so I don't think this turns into a game where the first one to 50 wins, however, I do think the Huskers will be able to points up on the Nittany Lions. I wouldn't be surprised to see a couple turnovers from both teams, but ultimately Nebraska has too much fire power at home.
Nebraska/Penn State 2011 highlights:
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