LINCOLN, Neb. - Penn State has enjoyed nothing but fun on the road in Big Ten games this season, using stadiums at Illinois, Iowa and Purdue as its personal playgrounds.
The playground leader has been quarterback Matt McGloin, the fifth-year senior who has led the Nittany Lions to 107 points and a 3-0 mark in those games. Their opponents have scored 30 points.
"The best part about what we've been doing and having some success is going on the road and winning big," McGloin said this week. "There's no better feeling than going on the road, getting [ahead] early, and completely taking the stadium out of the game. It's fun to be around and it's definitely one of the things we'd like to do on Saturday."
It may not be quite that easy. The Lions (6-3 overall, 4-1 Big Ten) play Nebraska before a red-clad and loud sellout crowd at Memorial Stadium, and the 18th-ranked Cornhuskers (7-2, 4-1) don't want to allow anyone to derail their drive to the Legends Division title and a spot in the Big Ten championship game.
In his three road conference contests, McGloin has completed 63.5 percent of his passes for 821 yards and five touchdowns, with no interceptions. The TD passes have been to four different receivers, with freshman tight end Jesse James leading the way with two.
But the Nebraska secondary has made life difficult for the opposition. The Cornhuskers are first in the league (eighth in the FBS) in pass efficiency defense, and second in the Big Ten (fifth in the FBS) in passing yards allowed with 156.0 per game. They have big and physical people at corner and at safety.
"It's one of the best secondaries we've seen all season," said McGloin, who will be making his 20th start for the Nittany Lions. "They definitely do a lot of different things and we've been watching a ton of film on them trying to get prepared for them, and doing some things that we think might be successful."
In addition to Allen Robinson, who continues to lead the Big Ten with 57 catches for 689 yards and eight touchdowns, Brandon Moseby-Felder has come on strong for the Lions at wide receiver. The redshirt junior picked up six catches for 132 yards and a score last week against Purdue.
"It's a great feeling," said Moseby-Felder, who was slowed all spring by a hamstring injury. "I think I've earned the coaches' trust."
It could be treacherous footing for Robinson, Moseby-Felder and friends. The Cornhuskers feature a pair of hard-hitting safeties in Daimion Stafford and P.J. Smith, who rank second and third on the team in tackles. Smith also leads the team in interceptions with two.
Nebraska has sacked opposing quarterbacks 24 times, with senior defensive end Eric Martin leading the way with 61/2. The Nittany Lions have allowed just 13 sacks all season.
The Lions have to be equally vigilant in defending Taylor Martinez, the second major dual-threat quarterback they will face this season. They did a good job of bottling up Ohio State's Braxton Miller two weeks ago in the first half before Miller broke free in the second, and hope to string together four quarters of sound defense Saturday against Martinez.
"Taylor Martinez has done an excellent job," Penn State coach Bill O'Brien said. "He's an accurate guy and he can run."
Another key to the game will be turnovers. The Cornhuskers have coughed it up 23 times, the most turnovers in the Big Ten, and the Nittany Lions have 17 takeaways. Look for linebackers Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges to try to add to Nebraska's total of 14 fumbles.
Saturday at 3:30 p.m., Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Neb.
TV/Radio: 6ABC; WNTP-AM (990), WNPV-AM (1440).
Records: Penn State, 6-3 overall, 4-1 Big Ten; Nebraska, 7-2, 4-1, ranked No. 18 by Associated Press, No. 16 in the Bowl Championship Series.
Coaches: Penn State, Bill O'Brien (first season, 6-3); Nebraska, Bo Pelini (fifth season, 46-18).
Series: The Nittany Lions, playing in Lincoln for the first time since 2003, and Cornhuskers each have won seven times but the NCAA vacated Penn State's 2002 victory because of sanctions. Nebraska won last year's meeting, 17-14, at Beaver Stadium.
Betting line: Nebraska by 8.
Three things to watch:
The Nittany Lions have enjoyed success in the passing game this season and Matt McGloin has posted back-to-back 300-yard performances. But it won't be easy sledding against a physical Cornhuskers secondary that ranks first in the Big Ten in pass defense, and is eighth nationally in passing yards allowed.
Considering Nebraska's record, a remarkable statistic is that the Cornhuskers have turned the ball over 23 times this season with a minus-9 turnover ratio, worst in the conference in both categories. The Lions are first in the Big Ten at plus-9 and have claimed 17 takeaways.
Sorry to be repetitive, but Penn State's kicking game again could be the difference between success and failure. Sam Ficken is up to 50 percent (7 of 14) on field goals after hitting five of his last six, but he'll be working in a loud setting on Saturday. On the flip side, Nebraska's Brett Maher saw a streak of nine straight field goals end last week.
Three things you might not know:
Pelini is a native of Youngstown, Ohio. Nebraska wide receiver Tim Marlowe and Penn State fullback Michael Zordich grew up together in Youngstown and were high school teammates. "People that come from there do have a special amount of pride," Pelini said.
The Nittany Lions and Cornhuskers were two of four teams nationwide that placed four players each on the Academic all-District team announced earlier this week.
Lions defensive end Deion Barnes, a Northeast High grad, is putting up numbers that have put him under consideration for Big Ten freshman of the year. He is tied for the conference lead with three forced fumbles and is ninth in sacks with four.
- Joe Juliano