Nebraska Snap Counts: A New Quarterback, a New Starting Offensive Line, and the Return of Keaton Ellis

By Dan Smith on November 16, 2020 at 11:45 am
Nov 14, 2020; Lincoln, Nebraska, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Will Levis (7) runs against the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the second half at Memorial Stadium.
Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports
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Penn State is now 0-4 after losing to Nebraska 30-23 Saturday in Lincoln. There were some notable changes on the offensive side of the ball coming out of this game that could indicate how the Nittany Lions will try to turn things around through the rest of the 2020 season.

Offense (93 plays)

Pos. First Team Second Team Third Team
QB Will Levis (68) Sean Clifford (25)  
RB Devyn Ford (62) Keyvone Lee (25) Caziah Holmes (6)
WR Jahan Dotson (93)    
WR KeAndre Lambert-Smith (52) Daniel George (33) TJ Jones (5)
WR Parker Washington (86) Isaac Lutz (5)  
TE Pat Freiermuth (51) Brenton Strange (47)  
LT Rasheed Walker (93)    
LG Mike Miranda (81) Juice Scruggs (12)  
C Michal Menet (93)    
RG Will Fries (81) CJ Thorpe (12)  
RT Caedan Wallace (81) Will Fries (12)  
  • A New Quarterback: We may have seen the end of the Sean Clifford era Saturday. A strong case could have been made that Levis should have started the game based on the season so far; with the benefit of hindsight, it may have been the difference in the game. Levis has limitations, but simply put, he took care of the ball in a way Clifford seems unable to.
  • And a New Offensive Line: Aside from one 12-play drive in the first half that ended in a field goal, the Nittany Lions showed a new starting offensive line that seemed to work better for them for most of the game. Redshirt freshman Wallace is the new right tackle and senior Fries has kicked in to guard. Thorpe did not show well on his one possession in the game: he appeared to take a cheap shot at a Nebraska player, and then followed that up by taking a 15-yard penalty that forced Penn State to kick a field goal down three scores. Also of note, Scruggs was the other guard during that possession, and Des Holmes did not appear on offense for the first time this season.
  • Freiermuth Banged Up? It is not enough to keep him out of the lineup, as Freiermuth was in during the final possessions, but he missed extended time in the second half in a way that we have not seen before. Reporters at the game indicated that he may be dealing with a shoulder injury. That likely dates back to the second half of the Maryland game, when Strange played the bulk of the snaps.

Defense (59 plays)

Pos. First Team Second Team Third Team
DE Shaka Toney (51) Shane Simmons (6)  
DT PJ Mustipher (54) Hakeem Beamon (12)  
DT Antonio Shelton (37) Fred Hansard (13) Judge Culpepper (2)
DE Jayson Oweh (50) Adisa Isaac (11)  
OLB Brandon Smith (50) Curtis Jacobs (8)  
MLB Ellis Brooks (54) Charlie Katshir (5)  
OLB Jesse Luketa (49) Lance Dixon (10)  
CB Joey Porter Jr. (52) Daequan Hardy (5)  
S Jaquan Brisker (51) Jonathan Sutherland (10)  
S Lamont Wade (46) Ji'Ayir Brown (11)  
CB Keaton Ellis (52) Marquis Wilson (10)  
  • Ellis Debuts and Starts, Castro-Fields Out: Ellis had mysteriously missed the first three games on the defensive side of the ball, playing only on special teams in the opener at Indiana. Castro-Fields was injured in the third quarter against Maryland and missed this game, and Ellis started in his place. He played a typical starter's allotment, though he was not in the game on the three-and-out the defense forced after Penn State's first failed fourth-down conversion. Hardy replaced him, and not Wilson, which was also notable.
  • No Changes at Safety: As discussed on this week's Roar Lions Radio game preview, the safety play has been abysmal and potentially called for new looks from Trent Gordon or Tyler Rudolph. But no such changes came.
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