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November 10, 2012

Highs and Lows: Nebraska

Penn State couldn't hold on to its first-half lead as Nebraska rallied to the 32-23 victory. BWI editor Nate Bauer breaks down the best and the rest from the Nittany Lions' loss in Lincoln.

PLAYER OF THE GAME For as good as Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez was Saturday afternoon, running back Ameer Abdullah did the heavy lifting for the Cornhuskers, carrying the ball 31 times for 116 yards, leaving the Nittany Lions' defense spent from the effort needed to pull down the speedy, physical back.

PLAY OF THE GAME From second-and-goal on the Nebraska 3-yard line, Penn State tight end Matt Lehman snatched Matt McGloin's pass in the flat, stretched toward the end zone and seemingly broke the plane before the ball was knocked loose. Nebraska recovered, with the officials ruling the play a fumble and touchback. Upon further review, the play stood, despite video evidence suggesting a touchdown would have been the proper call.

BEST PASS McGloin's third-and-14 pass to Allen Robinson down the left sideline was a thing of beauty, floating through the air and landing in Robinson's hands, in stride, right before going out of bounds.

WORST PASS McGloin's pass to Trevor Williams over the middle was picked off by Daimion Stafford and run back to Penn State's 3-yard line, helping to erase the Nittany Lions' first half lead in a matter of minutes. On the converse, McGloin had tight end Matt Lehman wide open in the front left corner of the end zone on third-and-1 late in the first half for what would have been a foot-to-throat moment, but simply overthrew the sure touchdown pass. Both plays were critical turning points for the Nittany Lions.

BEST RUN On only the fourth play of the game, Penn State running back Zach Zwinak found a small hole in the middle of the Nebraska defensive line, and maybe for the first time in his life, outran an entire defense for a 50-yard touchdown, silencing the Memorial Stadium crowd in the process.

BEST CATCH Zwinak pulled in a tough screen pass dump off from McGloin, rumbling 31-yards to set up the Nittany Lions at the 25-yard line late in the first half.

WORST DROP Nebraska punt returner Tim Marlow completely muffed Alex Butterworth's boot late in the first half, setting up the Nittany Lions in prime field position when Mike Hull recovered at the 31-yard line.

BEST SACK Penn State defensive end Deion Barnes slipped through the Nebraska offensive line and managed to grab - and hold onto - the ever-elusive Martinez for an 8-yard sack early in the first quarter.

BEST HIT Penn State safety Adrian Amos absolutely hammered Jamal Turner coming across the middle on third-and-10 late in the first half. The ball was caught but popped out before making a step, deeming the pass an incompletion.

BEST EFFORT With the Nittany Lions marching toward a score, Nebraska linebacker Alonzo Whaley punched a fumble out of Zwinak's hands and into the arms of teammate Will Compton. Gerald Hodges' pass deflected in the end zone early in the second quarter was a close second.

BEST KICK Nebraska punter Brett Maher's 69-yard effort late in the fourth quarter may have sealed the win for the Cornhuskers.

WORST KICK Maher was bailed out by a Penn State sideline interference call late in the first half, sending the Nittany Lions back 15 yards after an awful punt of just 16 yards.

BEST DECISION After setting up to go for it on fourth-and-6 at the 25-yard line late in the first half, Penn State head coach Bill O'Brien reconsidered, allowing placekicker Sam Ficken to send home a 38-yard attempt and give the Nittany Lions a 20-6 lead at the half.

WORST CALL How the replay official, upon second look, determined that Lehman had not crossed the plane is simply incomprehensible. Video replay was implemented to eliminate human error on that type of call.

MOST TELLING MOMENT Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini spurned traditional thinking, accepting a holding call on third-and-short in the first quarter that would have set up a fourth down. Due to Penn State's tendency to go for it, though, the decision made sense. However, it backfired when McGloin completed the third-and-14 pass to Allen Robinson a 30-yard gain.

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