No. 12 Penn St, No. 19 Huskers meet in key game

BY foxsports • November 11, 2011

There's also a game.

Yes, No. 19 Nebraska and 12th-ranked Penn State will play a football game Saturday in Happy Valley.

It will be a three-hour diversion from the lurid child sex abuse scandal involving former assistant Jerry Sandusky that has shocked the sports world and led to the firing of the iconic Joe Paterno.

All indications are that getting on the field will be cathartic for the Nittany Lions.

''If you're going through hell, keep going,'' PSU quarterback Matt McGloin tweeted late this week.

And purely in football terms, it's an interesting matchup.

The Nittany Lions (8-1, 5-0 Big Ten), for all their troubles, have a two-game lead in the Leaders Division and are harboring Rose Bowl hopes as they enter the toughest stretch of their schedule. Interim coach Tom Bradley said the goals won't change under the difficult circumstances.

''They know what they have to get done,'' Bradley said. ''I expect them to come out and play a good, hard football game. They've prepared themselves, they've worked awfully hard and I would be disappointed if they didn't.''

The Cornhuskers (7-2, 3-2) are fighting to stay alive in the Legends after Northwestern upset them at home last week.

Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said he can't predict what type of atmosphere his team will encounter. Emotions could run high on and off the field, or - after kick off - it might be like any other game.

The Huskers were beaten 48-17 in their toughest road game to date, at Wisconsin, but are 12-5 away from home in Pelini's four years.

''We've shown the past few years that we love playing in environments like that,'' tight end Ben Cotton said. ''We're a good team at being able to make those good solid business trips, staying within ourselves and not paying attention to the distractions around us.''

No serious consideration was given to postponing or moving the game because of the high emotions in State College, Pa.

Bradley said the Nittany Lions' 20 seniors deserve to have their Senior Day, and he implored PSU students and fans to be on their best behavior.

Police in riot gear dispersed about 2,000 people who took to the streets after Paterno's firing Wednesday. Crowds toppled a television news van and kicked in its windows, and at least one photographer was pelted with a rock. Officers used pepper spray at times to control the crowd.

A Nebraska regent said he feared possible hooliganism inside and outside Beaver Stadium that could threaten the safety of the Huskers and their fans. Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne said he's been assured extra security measures are in place, but he suggested that Husker fans not wear or do anything that would make them stand out.

Bradley said Thursday that it hadn't been decided whether McGloin or Rob Bolden would start under center. McGloin and Bolden have shared playing time this season. McGloin started the past two games but struggled in a 10-7 win over Illinois.

Silas Redd is the Nittany Lions' top offensive threat. He's had five straight 100-yard games, the most by a PSU running back since Curtis Enis had eight in a row in 1997.

The Lions will try to puncture Nebraska's injury-plagued defensive front. Star tackle Jared Crick (torn chest muscle) is out for the season, Thad Randle (knee) might not come back, and Chase Rome (muscle pull) missed last week's game.

Pelini said Rome might play Saturday, but Nebraska has tinkered this week with defensive end Cameron Meredith at tackle to shore up the line.

The Huskers, held to a season-low 122 yards rushing by Northwestern, will be going against one of the nation's top defenses. Bradley, who worked 33 years under Paterno, will turn over the defensive coordinator duties to Larry Johnson and Ron Vanderlinden.

If Rex Burkhead can't make a dent on the ground, Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez will have to beat Penn State with his arm.

That's been a 50-50 proposition this year. He was abysmal against Wisconsin, throwing three interceptions. But he's been solid the last six quarters against Michigan State and Northwestern, having completed 34 of 44 passes for 369 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions.

Nebraska receiver Kenny Bell said he doubts Penn State will let down because of the scandal.

''They're 8-1, undefeated in the Big Ten... a program like that, the kind of coaching staff they have, I've got nothing but respect for these guys. They're coming off a bye week. They're going to be ready to play football this Saturday.''

Yes, the Nittany Lions will be, PSU safety Nick Sukay tweeted.

''Saturdays more than just any ordinary game,'' he wrote. ''We'll be ready to show our penn state pride on the field saturday along with thousands of others.''

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