LINCOLN, Neb. - Tight end Matt Lehman caught the short pass from Matt McGloin and turned to get the final few yards for the touchdown that would have given Penn State the lead on a late afternoon and evening of electrifying football Saturday before the red-clad Memorial Stadium crowd.
Lehman, the football and Nebraska linebacker David Santos all arrived at the goal line together. Santos delivered a big hit and the ball squirted into the end zone where his teammate recovered. But did Lehman cross - or at least reach - the plane of the end zone?
During a review, the replay official said no. Twitter lit up with opinions, most of them feeling that Lehman had made it. But it went down in the books as a fumble, one of three turnovers that doomed the Nittany Lions to a 32-23 Big Ten defeat at the hands of the Cornhuskers.
An emotional McGloin couldn't disguise his disgust, strongly suggesting bias by the officials against Penn State.
"I know we're not going to get that call here," he said. "We're not going to get that call ever actually against any team. It doesn't matter who the refs are, we'll never get that call."
When asked why, McGloin replied, "Why do you think it is? That's just the way it is.
"It's us against the world and we're not going to get those calls in these types of games."
Center Matt Stankiewitch, one of McGloin's roommates and best friends, said he thought the officials were fair.
"I think Matt is very emotional right now," he said. "Matt is a very emotional player. I respect his enthusiasm for the team and his emotion. But I feel like all the refs did the best they could to call the most even and fair game that they could."
Nittany Lions coach Bill O'Brien said his coaches in the press box thought Lehman had reached the goal line before losing the ball. But he said referee John O'Neill told him that replay officials "didn't have enough evidence to reverse the call."
O'Neill told a pool reporter that "the play stood based on the views" the replay official had and added, "It's ultimately his decision."
Regardless of the call, the fact is that Penn State twice lost fumbles inside the Nebraska 10, the first by tailback Zach Zwinak as the Nittany Lions drove for what could have been their second touchdown in as many drives at the start.
"That kills you," O'Brien said. "You can't turn the ball over inside the red zone. These are good kids. Zach is twisting trying to gain extra yards. Matt was just trying to make a play. But you've got to come away with scores when you're playing Nebraska, a team that is going to score some points. That was not good on our part."
The Lions played an excellent first half. Zwinak raced 50 yards for a touchdown - the team's longest play from scrimmage this season - and McGloin hit Jesse James with a 10-yard touchdown pass. Sam Ficken kicked his first two of three field goals.
Defensively, Penn State twice stopped the Cornhuskers inside the Lions 10, forcing them to settle for field goals both times. With the crowd as quiet as 85,527 people can be, the visitors went in with a 20-6 lead at the half.
But the lead disappeared early in the third when Nebraska scored two touchdowns in a span of 2 minutes, 11 seconds. The Huskers drove 75 yards for the first score and four yards for the second after McGloin threw an interception to safety Daimion Stafford.
The Nittany Lions regained the lead on Ficken's third field goal but Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez, who lost a fumble to Penn State in the end zone, gave his team the lead for good with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Jamal Turner.
"They came out like they wanted it," said defensive tackle Jordan Hill, who played a significant number of snaps one week after suffering a sprained left knee. "They had a good drive and they scored. It just changed momentum, shifted it, and we never really got it back."
The Cornhuskers outgained the Lions 250-136 after halftime and held the ball for nearly 20 of the 30 minutes. For the game, Nebraska rushed for 267 yards, a season-high against Penn State.