Game Preview: Penn State vs. Illinois
Josh Starr, Aidan Bitterman, Jordan Mansberger and Paul Toth preview Penn State's Friday evening Big Ten opener against Illinois:
For the first time in 18 years the No. 10 Penn State Nittany Lions will play a non-Saturday regular season game, traveling to Champaign, Illinois this Friday to face the Fighting Illini of Illinois for an 8 p.m. central standard time kickoff.
The Nittany Lions comes fresh off a 63-10 drubbing of the visiting Kent State Golden Flashes, putting up 643 yards of total offense while allowing only 221 yards for the Golden Flashes.
Miles Sanders paced a balanced rushing attack, putting up 86 rushing yards on 14 carries. Also contributing to the ground game were Mark Allen with 62 yards on 11 carries, as well as Trace McSorley with 54 yards on nine carries. McSorley also ran for three touchdowns to give himself the career record for rushing touchdowns by a Penn State quarterback.
In the passing game, McSorley led the way by completing 11 of 22 passes for 229 yards and two touchdowns, one each to Brandon Polk and DeAndre Thompkins. Redshirt-freshman Sean Clifford also impressed, throwing a 95-yard touchdown pass to Daniel George.
Penn State’s defense came to play as well, recording seven sacks of Kent State quarterback Woody Barrett, including two sacks each by Shareef Miller and Jayson Oweh. Cam Brown paced the defense with seven tackles, including two tackles for loss. While Kevin Givens finished the game with only one tackle, his presence was felt all game long by the Kent State offensive line, providing opportunities for outside edge rushers Miller and Oweh to get into the backfield and harass Kent State’s Barrett.
The Illinois Fighting Illini (2-1) enter Friday's contest coming off a heartbreaking 25-19 loss to the USF Bulls. Illinois led by a score of 19-7 entering the 4th quarter, but ultimately could not hold off an explosive USF offense. Quarterback Blake Barnett passed for 411 yards and two touchdowns on the afternoon, proving to be too much for the Illinois defense to contain. However, Illinois’ defense recorded two interceptions, one each by linebacker Del’Shawn Phillips and defensive back Jartavius Martin. Philips also tied linebacker Jake Hansen for the team lead in tackles with eight.
The passing game proved to be unspectacular for the Fighting Illini, with quarterback M.J. Rivers II failing to record a touchdown, albeit while completing 20/29 passes for 168 yards. Running the ball was an entirely different matter, as sophomore running back Mike Epstein and Junior running back Reggie Corbin combined to rush for 211 yards on 31 rushes.
This contest marks the 24th in a series that Penn State holds an 18-5 advantage over the Fighting Illini. The Nittany Lions proved victorious the last time these two teams met, winning 39-0 in 2015 at Beaver Stadium. However, Illinois won the previous contest in 2014 at Champaign, Illinois, winning by a score of 16-14.
The Penn State Nittany Lions will kick off Friday at 8 PM central standard time at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Illinois, where they will take on the Illinois Fighting Illini. The game will be televised on Fox Sports one (FS1).
Andrew Destin is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.