Nebraska made some huge plays in the first half to build up a big lead at the break, but the Nittany Lions battled back to make it a one-score game late. It came down to one final snap, this week’s Play of the Game.
When it needed it most, on its 91st snap of the day, the defense got a stop on fourth down with 31 seconds to go to seal the 30-23 victory.
The Blackshirts got a fourth-down red zone stop on the previous drive with just over four minutes to play, but the offense went three-and-out in just 63 seconds. After a 53-yard punt from William Przystup, Penn State marched right down the field back into the red zone, to the 9-yard line.
Incomplete passes on first and second down and a third-down sack by Luke Reimer made it fourth-and-goal from the 13-yard line with 37 seconds left. Both teams traded timeouts, the last two stoppages of the game.
It came down to one play, and Erik Chinander brought some heat.
THE SACK SEALS THE VICTORY! 💪
— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) November 14, 2020
Ben Stille and Ty Robinson lined up in the middle with outside linebackers Caleb tannor and Pheldarius Payne flanking them with a hand in the dirt. All four went after the passer and Nebraska sent inside linebacker Luke Reimer on a blitz as well.
It looks like Penn State’s first option is the two receivers rubbing off each other at the bottom of the screen, but Cam Taylor-Britt does a good job of jamming his man and sticking with him as Deontai Williams got to the perimeter to pick up the other receiver. Nebraska had the two receivers on the there side of the field locked down as well. No one open.
Tannor and Payne forced Penn State quarterback Will Levis to step up in the pocket but Ben Stille had already gotten off the left guard’s block and dragged him down. Levis got the ball out before he hit the ground, so it wasn’t a sack as the tweet says, but the ball fell harmlessly to the turf with no one in the area.
“That was definitely a high-pressure situation for us but I was proud of the way guys responded,” Stille said. “Been an area of emphasis for us for sure over those first two games, just getting stops in the red zone, and I think we improved on that today.”
Stille had another great red zone rep late in the third quarter, driving his man back on third-and-goal from the 7 and plugging a gap, spilling Levis back to where safety Marque Dismuke was waiting to tackle him being the one of scrimmage. That play limited Penn State to a field goal that made the score 27-16 Nebraska.
Overall, Penn State had six trips into the redone and came away with 16 points — one touchdown and three field goals. Chinander’s defense bent — giving up 501 total yards — but it didn’t break. And on the biggest play of the day, a senior stepped up.
“Ben’s been through a lot,” Coach Scott Frost said. “A lot of the kids that have been here this whole time with us have been through a lot. They’ve seen coaches change. They’ve seen different schemes. They’ve lost some games they shouldn’t lose. They’ve had a lot to deal with. I told those guys that we needed somebody to step up and make a play if the game got close and again an Ashland, Nebraska, kid to step up and make that kind of play, it’s special for us but I’m so happy for him.”
Nebraska has found a lot of ways to lose through the first 26 games of the Frost era. On Saturday, the Huskers found a way to win, and a homegrown Husker senior put the finishing touches on it.
That’s why Nebraska’s fourth-down stop with 31 seconds to go is this week’s Play of the Game.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.