SPORTSTAKE: Score not settled between Nebraska, Penn State

By Zach Tegler

November 10, 2012. Lincoln.

Nine minutes remain between Nebraska and Penn State. Quarterback Matt McGloin has the Nittany Lions eyeing a go-ahead touchdown when, on 2nd and goal, he throws to tight end Matt Lehman. Lehman stretches the ball toward the goal line. It looks like Penn State has taken the lead.

Zach Tegler/Sports Columnist

But the ball pops out of his arms, and the Huskers recover in the end zone. Video review could not overturn the on-field call of a fumble.

Touchback. Nebraska goes on to win 32-23.

After the game, McGloin himself complained about the call. Penn State fans booed, said it was a touchdown. Said the ball had crossed the plain.

Meanwhile, Nebraska fans shrugged off the controversy. Remember 1982? they said.

Oh, yeah. 1982, Happy Valley.

The No. 2 Huskers led the No. 8 Nittany Lions by three with 12 seconds left. Penn State signal-caller Todd Blackledge has his team within striking distance of a go-ahead touchdown. As the clock ticked away the final ten seconds, Blackledge threw to tight end Mike McCloskey. With eight seconds left, McCloskey caught the pass.

Out of bounds.

McCloskey caught it out of bounds. But the official near the play called a completed pass, strutting up the sideline and waving his hands above his head to mark the ball at the NU 2-yard line. Penn State won on a touchdown pass seconds later.

The Nittany Lions went on to win the national championship, while the Huskers finished No. 3 in the country with one loss.

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So, 30 years later, when Nebraska benefited from a call against Penn State, Husker fans cheered the play as payback. As karma. You guys had your crooked sideline, they said. It’s only fair we get our crooked goal line.

But with that play, Nebraska fans seemingly forgot all about 1994.

That’s right. 1994.

In 1994, Nebraska and Penn State were the only two teams in the nation to finish with perfect records. Both schools had an argument to finish ranked No. 1.

The Huskers beat Miami 24-17 in the Orange Bowl. The Nittany Lions beat Tennessee 31-13 in the Citrus Bowl. But when the final rankings came out, voters gave Nebraska coach Tom Osborne his first national title – the one he could have won 12 years earlier if not for the loss against Penn State.

Nebraska had the No. 1 spot in both polls. And Penn State had a gripe.

There’s no way to say which team was actually better. They didn’t play each other in 1994. Nittany Lions faithful maintained that they were the best team in the land. Big Red fans felt, finally, vindication for 1982.

In 2012, at the sight of a crooked goal line at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, they felt that vindication again. Now that the Huskers and Nittany Lions will play every season, more history is sure to lie ahead. But the score between Nebraska and Penn State is not settled.

It’s 2-1 Nebraska.

And at some point, karma will even the count.

 

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