BY ERIC OLSON
LINCOLN, Neb. —
Penn State saw a touchdown.
Officials saw a fumble.
Tight end Matt Lehman lost the ball as he was about to score the go-ahead touchdown against No. 18 Nebraska on Saturday, and the Cornhuskers ended up winning 32-23 after coming back from a double-digit, second-half deficit for the fourth time this season.
Penn State (6-4, 4-2) had its three-game Big Ten road win streak end.
“Losing is a terrible feeling. It’s miserable. Absolutely miserable,” Nittany Lions coach Bill O’Brien said. “It’s like a part of you dies, to be honest with you.”
Taylor Martinez’s 5-yard touchdown pass to Jamal Turner gave Nebraska its first lead, at 27-23, with 10:57 left.
Penn State looked ready to regain the lead, but then Lehman’s fumble happened. After he caught a short pass from Matt McGloin on second-and-goal from the 3, Lehman was popped by linebacker David Santos and dropped the ball. Daimion Stafford, whose interception set up Nebraska’s tying TD, pounced on it.
Lehman was ruled to have fumbled into the end zone before the ball crossed the goal line. The call was confirmed on video review.
O’Brien said he thought the ball broke the plane.
“They just didn’t feel like they could reverse it,” he said. “He tried to reach it out. You can’t do that. He was just reaching it out. Good kid trying to make a play.”
After the game, referee John O’Neill said in a statement, “The ruling on the field was a fumble short of the goal line. It went to replay and the replay official said the play stood based on the views he had. It’s ultimately his decision.”
Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said it helped that the call on the field went his team’s way.
“You got to have indisputable evidence to overrule it,” he said. “Something that bang-bang, usually it ends up going however they rule it on the field. We were kind of fortunate.”
McGloin said: “We’re not going to get that call here. We’re not going to get that call ever actually, against any team. It doesn’t matter who the refs are... It’s us against the world and we’re not going to get those calls in these types of games.”
Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah ran for 116 yards on a career-high 31 carries, and Martinez finished with 104 yards as the Huskers pounded away on the ground on a windy afternoon at Memorial Stadium.
Zach Zwinak led the Lions with 141 yards on 21 carries. McGloin was 18 of 37 passing for 240 yards, with one interception. Allen Robinson caught six passes for 97 yards for Penn State.
The Huskers (8-2, 5-1 Big Ten), down 14 points at half, got TD runs of 1 and 2 yards from Imani Cross to tie it at 20.
Martinez, just 6 of 14 for 56 yards in the first half, completed all six of his second-half passes and finished with 171 yards through the air.
Penn State took its last lead, at 23-20, midway through the third quarter.
The Lions forced a three-and-out after Lehman’s fumble but had to start their next series after Brett Maher matched his career high with a 69-yard punt.
McGloin was called for intentional grounding after getting chased to the back of the end zone by Cameron Meredith and Eric Martin. The play resulted in a safety, and Nebraska led 29-23.
Penn State got another chance but turned over the ball on downs when Justin Blatchford broke up a McGloin pass at the Lions’ 25.
Maher added a 33-yard field goal, his third of the game.
Nebraska previously overcame double-digit, second-half deficits to Wisconsin, Northwestern and Michigan State.
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