Well, it wasn’t the outcome any of us wanted. I would rather be here today talking about a shiny new W rather than some of the signs of life we all witnessed in the second half of last Saturday’s game, but it is what it is at this point. Another comeback effort that fell short is what we are left to contemplate as Penn State fell to Nebraska 30-23 and returns home to face the blazing hot Hawkeyes of Iowa. What’s wrong, you ask? Well for one, it is mid-November and we’ve just managed to reach the midpoint of an eight-game regular season. That in and of itself is reason enough to label 2020 as a washout, don’t you think? Even Super’Quon Barkley is on the mend in New York City as he recovers from a blown-out knee. That’s no excuse, it’s the cold, hard reality we live with today.
As for Saturday in Lincoln, there is no mistaking what we all witnessed. With one flick of the switch in the second half, suddenly signs of life had the Cornhuskers on their heels. I have no idea or even pretend to know what happened to starting quarterback and team captain Sean Clifford in between the Cotton Bowl in January and an 0-4 start to 2020, but after two more horrible turnovers, the shift to Will Levis was inevitable. There’s no denying how his teammates responded to the move. From the O-Line, to the running backs, to the receivers, they all fought their hearts out. Even the defense on the other side of the ball, who had given up points like a sieve prior to the switch, resembled the defense we all expected coming into the season.
Two final trips inside the red-zone came up pointless to preserve another loss but in between a first-half, where nothing went right and the final play, we saw the Penn State offense rack up over 500 yards on offense, and our D hold Nebraska to under-300 total yards, despite jumping out to a gaudy 24-3 first half lead, as the Nittany Lions outscored the home team 17-3 over the final 30 minutes. Little consolation for a fan base that expected another run at the playoffs but there were enough signs of life with Levis in charge to give us hope moving forward.
So here come the Hawkeyes, rolling into the Lion’s den, winners of two straight in convincing fashion and losers of their first two. If we know anything about a Kirk Ferentz-led squad, you can guarantee a 60-minute slugfest out of them. At this point, we don’t know who’s going to be the starter come Saturday afternoon in Happy Valley as James Franklin has kept it close to the vest all week long. Sean Clifford won a ton of games a year ago as he led the Penn State to another Top 10 finish and Will Levis has dominated in limited play. Maybe Clifford just needs a little more time to break out of his funk or maybe it’s Levis’s job to lose from here on out. What I do know is there were enough signs of life last week in Lincoln that I’m nowhere near ready to throw in the towel on the 2020 season.