First and foremost, I’d like to say congratulations to Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno for becoming the winningest coach in Division 1 college football. This past Saturday, with Penn State’s victory over Illinois, Joe Paterno beat out coach Eddie Robinson with 409 wins. Congratulations JoePa! He’s been an icon and an absolute blessing to have in NCAA football all these years.
University Park, Pennsylvania- Happy Valley wasn’t so “happy” for the Illinois Fighting Illni. Illinois lost to Penn State 7-10 this past weekend in the snow. That’s right. Snow! The white from the sky and the white t-shirts in the stadium were the backdrop for this low scoring battle. Illinois now drops to 6-3 after starting their dream season 6-0. This is their third straight loss to Big Ten opponents. Illinois is 0-3 in games where they’re unable to produce points in the first quarter. Illinois has had many close victories this season. For some strange reason, besides their contest against Indiana, Illinois just can’t get a good rhythm going offensively at away games. This was yet another game where Illinois had opportunities to win.
Penn State posted 6 turnovers against the Illini. They were fortunate enough to only lose two of those. When a team commits at least four turnovers, statistically and a majority of the time, they’re gonna lose. Penn State’s only touchdown wasn’t until running back Silas Redd’s 3 yard touchdown run with just 1:08 left in the game. It was a very defensively fueled game.
The first quarter consisted of a Penn State missed field goal and Illinois unable to achieve a single first down.
Both teams continued to struggle moving the ball in the second quarter. Illinois finally achieved a first down with 8:20 left in the first half. Nathan Scheelhaase rushed the ball himself after an Illinois holding penalty made it a first down and 20 yards to go. During Scheelhaase getting tackled, a Penn State defender forced the fumble and gave Penn State the ball. With 3 minutes left in the half, Penn State had one of many turnovers when quarterback Rob Bolden fumbled the ball at their own 25 yard line. This gave Illinois the ball and what looked like a guaranteed score before half. But the Illini are infected with mistakes this year. The mistakes came again. A trick play led Illini wide receiver Tim Russel being intercepted on a pass. The trick pass was intercepted by Penn State’s Sean Staley. Both teams went to the locker room to warm up with a score of 0-0.
Halfway through the third quarter, Illinois got a good rhythm on offense going. Play action fakes proved very effective for short gains. Assisted by the running game, the Illini found themselves in the end zone. Nathan Scheelhaase threw a 10 yard pass to Spencer Harris for the touchdown. The Penn State student section showed their appreciation by throwing passes of their own. They threw snowballs towards the celebrating Illini. I don’t blame them. With the game being so back-and-forth, this looked like a sealed deal.
But JoePa’s boys really wanted him to secure that winning Division 1 record.
The fourth quarter started with Illinois up 7-0. Penn State would settle with a 30 yard field goal on their first full possession in the fourth quarter. Penn State wide receiver Derek Moye had been sitting out this season after suffering a broken foot. He was listed as “emergency use only” and the Nittany Lions truly planned on waiting to use him after the bye week against Nebraska. This proved to be that emergency. On their last drive, Derek Moye proved to be the go-to-guy for Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin. Moye was an effective and productive target. Facing a 3rd down and 6, Derek Moye would miss a catch, but Illinois secondary made a game deciding pass interference. With the 15 yard penalty and a first down, Penn State’s running back Silas Redd would score on a 3 yard rush. This left a little over a minute left and the cardiac kids back in action. Nathan Scheelhaase gained yardage by completing good passes to A.J. Jenkins, Jon Davis, and then finding A.J. Jenkins again. A Jason Ford 9 yard run would put Illinois in field goal range. Derek Dimke hasn’t missed a point after or field goal in a looooooooonnnnnnnng time. His game-tieing 42 yard attempt would hit the right upright as time expired. Joe Paterno and the Nittany Lions would win over the Illini, 10-7.
Penn State is now in the top spot in the Big Ten Leaders division and the only undefeated team left in Big Ten play.
Illinois, after being on top and undefeated, find themselves 3 weeks later 2nd to last in the Leaders Division.
Illinois will look for answers and rest next Saturday during their bye week. November 12 they will stay at home and face the Michigan Wolverines.
Once again, a huge congratulations to Penn State head coach Joe Paterno and his Division 1 record.