State College, Pa. – Tanner Lee threw for 399 yards and three touchdowns, and Nebraska outscored Penn State by three touchdowns in the second half, but that wasn’t enough, as the Husker fell to No. 10 Penn State 56-44 on Saturday before 106,722 fans at Beaver Stadium.
Lee, a junior quarterback, was 26-of-41 passing, and junior receiver Stanley Morgan caught seven passes for a career-high 185 yards, as the Husker offense came to life in the second half after a scoreless second quarter.
That period told the game’s story, as Nebraska (4-7, 3-5 Big Ten Conference) didn’t gain a first down in the second quarter, while Penn State (8-2, 5-2) scored touchdowns on five straight possessions in the first half.
Saquon Barkley ran 17 times for 168 yards for Penn State, with the majority of that damage coming in the first half.
Barkley, a junior running back, ran 65 yards for a touchdown on the third play of the game, as Nebraska fell behind in the game’s first minute for a second straight game. Last week, a 100-yard kickoff return by Minnesota set the tone in the Huskers’ loss to the Gophers.
Like last week, Nebraska responded with a score, and even took the lead against Penn State, but couldn’t keep the Nittany Lions’ potent offense off the field. Quarterback Trace McSorley was 24-of-36 passing for 325 yards, and Penn State finished with 609 yards of total offense.
Nebraska went three-and-out on its first possession and punted, but Zech McPhearson fumbled the return and redshirt freshman Colin Miller recovered at the 34-yard line for the Huskers.
Lee completed an eight-yard pass to senior receiver DeMornay Pierson-El on 3rd-and-7, and he connected with Morgan for a 12-yard gain to the Penn State 11-yard line. But the Huskers got no closer and settled for senior kicker Drew Brown’s 27-yard field goal.
Brown, who became only the fourth Husker player in history to start in 50 career games, has made 17 straight field goals in road and neutral-site games.
Nebraska then forced its only 3-and-out of the first half, and Penn State punter Blake Gillikin hit an 18-yard punt off the side of his foot, and Nebraska began its next drive at the Penn State 36-yard line.
This time, Nebraska capitalized. Lee hit freshman receiver JD Spielman for a 17-yard gain on the first play of the drive, connected with Morgan for an eight-yard gain to the one, and junior running back Devine Ozigbo scored on the next play, giving the Huskers a 10-7 lead with 6:17 remaining in the first quarter.
Penn State answered emphatically. The Nittany Lions scored touchdowns on their next five drives, covering 66, 85, 67, 65 and 78 yards. Their final drive of the half ended in Nebraska territory as the clock expired, and Penn State led 42-10 at halftime.
The Huskers forced a 3-and-out on Penn State’s first possession of the third quarter, then Lee led an eight-play, 90-yard drive that included a 34-pass to Morgan and a five-yard touchdown pass to senior tight end Tyler Hoppes, who caught six passes for 43 yards for the game.
After forcing another 3-and-out, Nebraska needed only four plays to cover 79 yards for a touchdown, with Lee hitting Pierson-El on a 22-yard scoring pass. Morgan also caught a 51-yard pass on the quick series that pulled the Huskers with 42-24.
Penn State countered with two touchdowns on its next two possessions, but again, the Huskers showed some resolve when they drove 75 yards in seven plays for their third touchdown of the half, an eight-yard pass from Lee to Morgan, making the score 56-31.
Nebraska’s final two touchdowns came in the game’s final 4:32. Junior running back Mikale Wilbon scored on a 1-yard run, the Pierson-El recovered a perfectly placed onside kick by Brown.
That led to a three-yard touchdown pass from Lee to tight end Jack Stoll on the game’s final play. There was no extra point attempt.
Nebraska returns home Friday to conclude the season against Iowa on Senior Day.