Double-digit deficit - no problem for the 2012 Nebraska football team. The Huskers trailed 20-6 at the half before outscoring Penn State 26-3 in the second half on its way to a 32-23 victory over the Nittany Lions on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
The No. 18 Huskers notched their fourth straight Big Ten win to improve to 5-1 in the conference and 8-2 overall, while dropping Penn State to 6-4 overall and 4-2 in the Big Ten.
The comeback marked the third time in the last six games that the Huskers have rallied from 12-point or more deficits to win, joining a comeback from 17 points down against Wisconsin and 12 down at Northwestern. Prior to the last six games, the Huskers had produced just six 12-point or more second-half comebacks in school history. NU has used four double-digit second-half rallies to win five Big Ten games, including a 10-point fourth-quarter rally at Michigan State.
For the second straight, junior quarterback Taylor Martinez connected with sophomore wide receiver Jamal Turner on the game-winning touchdown pass in the fourth quarter. Martinez's five-yard strike to Turner at the goal line in the middle of the field with 10:57 left gave the Huskers a 27-23 lead. It was NU's first lead of the game.
Martinez finished the day with 275 yards of total offense, including 12-of-20 through the air for 171 yards and a score. Martinez's 56-yard strike to senior tight end Kyler Reed early in the fourth quarter helped set up the game-winning toss to Turner, and also put Reed over the 1,000-yard receiving mark for his career.
Martinez added his fourth 100-yard rushing game of the season and 12th of his career, carrying 15 times for 104 yards. Sophomore I-back Ameer Abdullah joined Martinez in the century club, carrying a career-high 31 times for 116 yards. It was Abdullah's sixth 100-yard rushing game of the season.
With Abdullah and Martinez rolling to the fourth double-100-yard rushing game of the season for the Huskers, Nebraska amassed 267 rushing yards against a Nittany Lion defense that surrendered just 123.6 rushing yards per game entering the contest.
Nebraska finished the day with 438 yards of total offense, outgaining Penn State 250-136 in the second half.
After Turner scored the go-ahead touchdown, the Nittany Lions responded by marching 75 yards in nine plays. The PSU drive ended when quarterback Matt McGloin hit Matt Lehman on 2nd-and-Goal from the NU 3. Lehman turned up the field and was met by Husker linebacker David Santos at the goal line. Santos forced a fumble that was recovered by Husker safety Daimion Stafford in the back of the end zone.
Penn State forced a punt on NU's ensuing drive, before Husker punter Brett Maher produced one of the game's biggest plays with a career-long 69-yard punt that went out of bounds on the Nebraska sideline at the PSU 2. Two plays later, senior defensive end Cameron Meredith swarmed on McGloin in the end zone to force an intentional grounding resulting in a safety to put the Huskers up 29-23 with 5:02 left.
The Nittany Lions stuffed the Huskers' on their next drive, and Maher answered again with a 55-yard punt. The Blackshirts surrendered just a five-yard scramble by McGloin and forced three incompletions for the PSU quarterback on the ensuing drive, including Justin Blatchford's breakup of a McGloin pass on 4th-and-5 at the PSU 25. McGloin finished 18-of-37 for 240 yards on the day.
The Huskers took over and Maher put the game out of reach with his third field goal of the game, this time from 33 yards out with 23 seconds left to produce the final margin.
Maher opened the scoring for the Huskers in the first quarter with a 32-yard field goal, after Penn State raced to a 7-0 lead in the game's first two minutes. The Nittany Lions scored on a 50-yard burst by running back Zach Zwinak, who led PSU with 141 rushing yards on 21 carries for the game. As a team, Penn State finished with just 151 yards on the ground against the Blackshirts.
Maher cut PSU's lead to 7-6 early in the second quarter with a 27-yard boot, but the Nittany Lions' Sam Ficken answered with a 27-yard kick of his own to push the PSU edge back to 10-6 with 6:58 left in the half. McGloin then hit Jesse James on a 10-yard touhdown pass to give the Lions a 17-6 edge with 2:42 left in the half, before Ficken connected on a career-long 38-yard field goal with 1:05 left to put Penn State up 20-6 at the half.
Penn State outgained the Huskers 255-188 in the first half, while the Nittany Lions also capitalized on a fumbled punt that they converted into James' touchdown catch.
Although the Huskers struggled in the first half, they dominated play in the second half.
Martinez led NU on an eight-play, 75-yard march to open the second half, which was capped by Imani Cross' one-yard touchdown blast with 11:48 left in the third quarter.
On Penn State's following drive, Stafford snatched a McGloin pass out of the air on 3rd-and-15 from the PSU 16 and returned it 22 yards to the PSU 4. Two carries later, Cross pounded his way into the end zone from two yards out to tie the game at 20 with 9:37 left in the third to erase PSU's first-half lead. He finished with eight carries for 22 yards against the Nittany Lions.
Ficken slowed Nebraska's momentum with his third field goal of the game, this time from 35 yards out with 6:01 left in the quarter, before the Huskers closed the game out in the fourth quarter.
Nebraska returns home for the first of back-to-back games at Memorial Stadium, when the Huskers take on Minnesota on Saturday, Nov. 17. Kickoff between the Huskers and Golden Gophers is set for 2:30 p.m. (CT) with live national television coverage on the Big Ten Network.