UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Rain played havoc with everything but the game itself as Penn State beat Nebraska 56-44 on a soggy Beaver Stadium field Saturday.
The conditions had a lot to do with keeping attendance well below the announced 106,722 in the final home game for 23 seniors. A generous estimate in the first half was closer to 85,000, including an estimated 5,000 Nebraska fans.
Sections EA and EB in the south end of the east stadium were at 25 percent capacity. The south end of the stadium, where most of the students are, was less than half full.
The two sections in the upper reaches of the north end zone reserved for the visiting school had much less red than Nebraska’s most recent visits to Happy Valley in 2011 and 2013. There were small pockets of fans wearing red in other parts of the stadium.
The attendance also impacted the third annual stripe out.
Fans in each section were assigned to wear either all blue or all white to create a stripe effect, while the students wore all white. The stripe effects were noticeable in only a handful of the sections.
Defense still working
As Nebraska’s defense again got roughed up in the first half — giving up six touchdowns — the coaches kept their cool while working with players to make adjustments.
The biggest show of emotion came from one of the defensive captains after Saquon Barkley scored the first of his three first-half touchdowns on a 65-yard run down the sideline 57 seconds into the game.
A couple of Blackshirts were hanging their heads after that play, but safety Joshua Kalu exhorted teammates to continue to keep working, waving his arms while offering encouragement.
Defensive assistants Scott Booker, Trent Bray, John Parrella and Donte Williams worked with their charges after each score. Bray, the linebackers coach, was especially busy on the dry erase board after the first TD to help the Huskers get in better position.
If there is a chance the musical selections for the Big Ten championship game could be handled by a member school, Penn State’s maestro should get the gig.
A mixture of classics, current tunes and, most important, songs with lyrics that fit on-field scenarios, kept the toes tapping.
The best stretch came on what was first ruled to be a Barkley touchdown on an 11-yard run around right end.
Barkley dove for the pylon and the play went to video review. While that was taking place, R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly” from the “Space Jam” soundtrack came on as the play was shown on the stadium’s video boards.
As decision time from the officials approached, Aretha Franklin’s “Think” — with the lyrics “Think about what you’re trying to do to me” — played.
Just before referee Ron Snodgrass announced that the TD had been overturned, “Tell Me Something Good” by Rufus and Chaka Khan began playing. Moments later, boos in response to the call drowned out the song.
As the first half ended, Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Have You Ever Seen the Rain” rang through the speakers as the teams headed for the locker room, and Toto’s “Africa” followed.
The rain stopped just long enough for Penn State’s pregame Senior Day ceremonies. The line of families stretched approximately 90 yards along the west side of the field.
The best moment was when coach James Franklin moved to the 50-yard line and had all the players, managers and student helpers being honored gather for a team photo.
Not only did that turn into an opportunity for family to get their son’s photos with the coach, the photo op produced some of the biggest cheers of the day.
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Penn State's Saquon Barkley runs in a touchdown ahead of Nebraska's Dedrick Young in the second quarter.
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