LINCOLN — Don't write me nasty emails for what you're about to read.
I'm just relaying what a lot of respected friends who cover Penn State athletics say about a mentality that exists concerning the school's 20-year association with the Big Ten.
An element of Nittany Lion fans thinks that the school has never been respected nor welcomed since gaining membership, and that the recent child sexual abuse scandal has only exacerbated concern about a conspiracy.
No one says that is a prevalent opinion.
But it comes up enough to remain part of the conversation in Happy Valley, and it arose again after Penn State's 32-23 loss Saturday at Nebraska.
With 7:39 left in the game, the Nittany Lions thought they had scored a go-ahead touchdown on a 3-yard pass from quarterback Matt McGloin to tight end Matt Lehman.
But Lehman lost the ball crossing the goal line. The officials called it a fumble, a Nebraska recovery and a touchback. The replay official said the play stood, but not that there was video confirmation.
McGloin's reaction will feed the black helicopter crowd.
“Man, I know we're not going to get that call here,” he said. “We're not going to get that call ever, actually, against any team. It doesn't matter who the refs are, we'll never get that call.”
“That's just the way it is, man,” McGloin said.
A Pennsylvania columnist sought clarification from McGloin, asking if Penn State is up against the world.
“That's the mentality we have,” McGloin said. “We've said it before. It's us against the world, and we're not going to get those types of calls in these types of games.”
I can hear Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany firing up his iPhone to respond. Remarks like those draw reprimands, though the league rarely reveals such decisions.
Other Penn State players declined to go along with McGloin.
“I don't think it was because we were at Nebraska,” center Matt Stankiewitch 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.”
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Though McGloin's conspiracy talk drew little backing, he did have support in thinking the play should have been ruled a Penn State touchdown.
Both ABC announcers agreed. Fox officiating analyst Mike Pereira tweeted that based on the replays he saw, he would have reversed the fumble to a touchdown.
Nittany Lion coach Bill O'Brien, asked what his coaches from the press box told him about Lehman's fumble, paused before saying: “That it was over the line, but they didn't feel like they would reverse it.”
O'Brien dodged the conspiracy talk, but had a message for PSU fans.
“I'd tell them that even though this isn't an undefeated team, it's a very special team of kids who are working hard,” he said. “We don't feel anybody is out to get us.
“We need the fans of Penn State to stick with us. Our team stuck with Penn State. So we need the fans of Penn State to stick with us at the Indiana game and the Wisconsin game. That's what we need.”
O'Brien graciously praised the Huskers and bemoaned that Penn State lost another fumble inside the NU 10-yard line, noting that red zone turnovers don't cut it against Top 25 opponents.
If we can briefly steer this back to football, Penn State (6-4, 4-2) deserves high praise for the season it has put together.
Under the stress of the Jerry Sandusky mess and a roster down to about 65 scholarship players, the Nittany Lions challenged for the Leaders Division title into the second week of November during a season when many wondered if they would win even a few games.
McGloin's remarks Saturday night taint that accomplishment. Outsiders will never understand the frustration inside the program from the NCAA sanctions and the snide asides about their school.
In that spirit, let's cut him a little slack for youthful ill-tempered remarks after a difficult loss.
As for the PSU fans who share those feelings, maybe they can call Nebraska fans who believe the Huskers were homered in a loss at State College 30 years ago and commiserate.
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