Nebraska is poised for 6th straight 9-win season
Another quarterback went down with an injury, and so did an offensive lineman for the sixth time this season. A questionable penalty wiped out what would have been the go-ahead touchdown, and a walk-on who transferred to Nebraska for his final season kicked the winning field goal.
Somehow, Nebraska keeps chugging along.
The Cornhuskers came out of Saturday's 23-20 overtime victory at Penn State in position to win a ninth game for a sixth straight season when they host Iowa on Friday.
But for all they've accomplished under difficult circumstances, the Huskers (8-3, 5-2 Big Ten) will see their streak of no conference championships stretch to 14 years. And that's why coach Bo Pelini goes into Thanksgiving week dogged by speculation about his future.
''Crazy profession,'' Pelini said. ''You just got to keep coaching, keep playing. It is a roller coaster of emotions.''
The Huskers have made fourth-quarter comebacks to beat Northwestern, Michigan and Penn State. Last year they did it in wins over Northwestern, Michigan State and Penn State, not to mention a rally from 17 points down in the third quarter in the regular-season win over Wisconsin.
They've won eight straight games decided by seven points or fewer and seem to be playing as much for their coach as for themselves.
''(Pelini) will forever be our coach ... love you man,'' quarterback Ron Kellogg III tweeted Saturday night.
Pelini said, ''I told them last night and I told them today, it is an honor to coach them and walk out on the field with them. It is a special group of kids and there is something special going on here with them.''
Kellogg, the third-stringer best known for throwing the Hail Mary to beat Northwestern three weeks ago, took over for Tommy Armstrong Jr. early in the game after Armstrong tweaked an ankle sprain. Armstrong was starting his seventh game in place of the injured Taylor Martinez.
Kellogg, a fifth-year senior who was put on scholarship for the first time in August, completed 20 of 34 passes for 191 yards and a touchdown in cold and snowy conditions.
Big Ten rushing leader Ameer Abdullah ran his season total over 1,400 yards after logging 25 carries for 147 yards. He had his 62-yard touchdown run called back in the fourth quarter after a personal foul was called on receiver Sam Burtch for making an unnecessary block behind the play.
''They robbed me. They robbed me of a long one,'' Abdullah said. ''They robbed Sam, too.''
The Huskers ended up kicking a tying, 19-yard field goal with 4:29 left in regulation.
Smith became the game's hero when he kicked the winning 42-yard field goal - right after his 37-yarder that split the uprights was nullified by illegal procedure. Smith won the place-kicking job after transferring from Championship Subdivision Western Illinois.
Nebraska will go into Friday's game trying to join Alabama and Oregon as programs that have secured six straight nine-win seasons. Boise State needs two more wins to join the exclusive club.