Nebraska's Pelini recalls last visit to Penn State

Posted: November 20, 2013

The recollections are still vivid for Nebraska coach Bo Pelini of his team's last visit two years ago to Penn State, which came a week after the revelation of a lengthy list of alleged sexual assaults on children by former Nittany Lions assistant coach Jerry Sandusky and the resulting shame and humiliation.

After the Cornhuskers' 17-14 victory on Nov. 12, 2011, Pelini said the game should not have been played because it "gave us an opportunity to show that the situation going on is bigger than football. It's about education and putting things in perspective, what the situation is all about." But he felt both teams had made a statement by praying together on the field before kickoff.

A lot has happened since then - Sandusky's trial and conviction, the Freeh Report, the harsh NCAA sanctions against Penn State, a new head coach for the Nittany Lions - as the Cornhuskers return to Happy Valley for Saturday's game.

"Obviously, that was a crazy and unfortunate situation," Pelini said Monday at his weekly news conference in Lincoln, Neb. "No one wants to be a part of something like that. It was a crazy week for us but I can't imagine what they went through that week."

"I think that's one of the powers of sport. You saw two different schools and teams come together and fan bases that came to understand that day what the big picture was, that there was a much bigger picture than a football game.

"I think everyone was able to put it aside for a couple of hours and come together, which I thought was pretty special - not just the prayer beforehand but the whole football game. . . . There were a lot of people - the kids, the players, the coaches - who were obviously in a very unfortunate situation that really they had nothing to do with."

The Nittany Lions were led that day by defensive coordinator Tom Bradley, who took the job as interim head coach after the firing of Joe Paterno three days before.

"It was just different," recalled senior offensive tackle Brent Qvale. "All the things that had come out, it was on all the fans' minds. You want to say that it didn't affect the players, but I think it affected the players. But [the scandal] is in their past and they've moved on from it."

The Cornhuskers (7-3, 4-2 Big Ten), who saw their dream of a Legends Division title erased last week in a 41-28 loss to Michigan State, also defeated Penn State last year, 32-23, in Lincoln, making them 2-0 against the Lions since joining the Big Ten.

Qvale knows that the atmosphere will be much different Saturday from it was two years ago and that "it's going to be a big challenge for us going in there."

Nittany notes. Penn State junior Allen Robinson, who has set single-season school records for receptions and receiving yards in 2013, has been selected as a semifinalist for the Biletnikoff Award, which recognizes the nation's best receiver. . . . The Nittany Lions announced that their Nov. 30 season finale at Wisconsin will kick off at 3:30 p.m.


jjuliano@phillynews.com

@joejulesinq

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