LINCOLN, Neb. – Penn State coach Bill O’Brien wants to move on from the fumble flap.
The Nittany Lions lost 32-23 to Nebraska on Saturday, and quarterback Matt McGloin hinted afterward that a ruling on a fumble that cost his team the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter was an example of the powers-that-be trying to keep the Nittany Lions down.
O’Brien doesn’t agree with McGloin or anyone else who propagates the notion there is a conspiracy against the Lions in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal. Penn State already is dealing with crippling NCAA sanctions this season and the next three.
O’Brien is calling for unity as the Lions (6-4, 4-2 Big Ten) finish the season with two home games.
“I would just say to the fans of Penn State that this is a very... even though it is not an undefeated team, it is a very special team with kids that are working hard,” he said. “We don’t feel like anyone is out to get us.
“We are just trying to figure out how to score on offense, and stop people on defense, and be good on special teams. We need the fans of Penn State to stick with us. This football team stuck with Penn State, and we need the fans of Penn State to stick with us at the Indiana game and the Wisconsin game.”
The call that stuck in the Lions’ craw occurred on what they thought was a 3-yard touchdown by tight end Matt Lehman.
Lehman caught a pass and headed toward the goal line. Linebacker David Santos met him there, with Lehman stretching the ball in front of him in an attempt to get it over the line.
The ball popped loose and Nebraska recovered. Officials on the field ruled that Lehman fumbled before the ball crossed the line. The video replay official didn’t see enough evidence to overturn the ruling, so Nebraska took possession on the touchback.
Fox officiating analyst Mike Pereira tweeted that he would have called it a touchdown for Penn State. Most folks wearing blue and white would agree.
“Man, I know we’re not going to get that call here,” McGloin said. “We’re not going to get that call ever actually, against any team. It doesn’t matter who the refs are. We’re not going to get that call.”
Asked why, McGloin said, “That’s just the way it is. Write what you think. It’s us against the world and we’re not going to get those types of calls in these types of games.”
Penn State center Matt Stankiewitch said he didn’t believe there was a hidden agenda against the Lions. Neither did he think the Lions got homered.
“I don’t think it was because we were at Nebraska,” he said. “We could have been on the moon playing this football game. The refs would make the same calls. I have a lot of respect for those officials.”
For a team that came into the season under a cloud and was expected to win only a few games, the Lions continued to see positives.
Zach Zwinak, making his second straight start in place of Bill Belton, broke a 50-yard touchdown run for the Lions’ longest play from scrimmage this season. He finished with a career-high 141 yards on 21 carries, topping his 134 yards against Purdue a week earlier.
McGloin, 18 of 37 passing for 240 yards, tied the Penn State record with his 16th career 200-yard passing game. It was his eighth straight, extending his single-season school record. His 41st career TD pass, to Jesse James in the second quarter, tied him with Todd Blackledge, Tony Sacca and Zach Mills on the all-time chart.
Allen Robinson caught six passes to move into a tie for first on the single-season receptions list with 63.
Sam Ficken, who struggled early in the season, made three field goals and has hit six in a row.