Illinois Fighting Illini head coach Tim Beckman has stated that he doesn’t regret his aggressive recruiting tactics when the Penn State Littany Lions received heavy NCAA sanctions in the summer. He may end up regretting it on Saturday. Illini coaches showed up at Penn State just two days after the sanctions broke and were very visible in trying to woo players away from the Nittany Lions. Of course it was stated that players could transfer from Penn State without having to sit out a year before playing for a new school. Illinois’ strong efforts landed them redshirt freshman offensive lineman Ryan Nowicki.
What the Illini did wasn’t wrong under the rules, but you can bet many people from Penn State weren’t happy about what transpired. Beckman has spoken to Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien since, and hopes there are no hard feelings. While Penn State players are all saying they are treating this like any other Big 10 matchup, you can be sure O’Brien’s team will have a little extra motivation in trying to leave Illinois with a victory.
This is the first career conference game for both coaches, and each team sits with a record of 2-2. Penn State got by Temple 24-13 last week, while Illinois were beaten handily by Louisiana Tech 52-24. Without a bowl game as an option this year for the Nittany Lions, they will no doubt be looking at these kind of contests as statement games.
Penn State may get some reinforcements back for the contest as well. Running backs Bill Belton and Derek Day are listed as probable for Saturday. Belton hasn’t played since suffering an ankle injury opening week, and Day has missed the past two games with an injured shoulder.