Penn State Holds On for OT Win vs. Illinois
The Penn State Nittany Lions (5-3, 2-2 Big Ten) picked up a big conference win in overtime over the Illinois Fighting Illini (3-5, 0-4 Big Ten) at Beaver Stadium on Saturday.
Following a humiliating 63-14 loss, last week at the hands of the Ohio State Buckeyes, Penn State was looking to bounce back and even their conference record, as they hosted the Illini in Happy Valley. Illinois was coming off a 42-3 loss to Michigan State.
Illinois looked as though they would put the first points of the contest on the board, marching the ball down the field on the game’s opening drive with a couple of big plays. After a penalty pushed the Illini back, Jordan Lucas brought the drive to an end, with an interception off a deflected pass intended for Martize Barr.
Penn State took the ball quickly down the field and capped the drive with a five-yard touchdown run by Bill Belton. The drive was highlighted by a 47-yard catch and run by Allen Robinson. The drive was kept alive in the red zone with a personal foul on third down that gave Penn State a fresh set of downs.
Illinois took the ball right back down the field on their next possession with a few more big plays. Scheelhaase thought he had a touchdown pass to even the score, but a personal foul nullified the scoring play and pushed the Illini back into their own territory. The drive stalled and Illinois punted.
Penn State continued to exploit Illinois’ shaky defense - which ranks 11th in the Big Ten. Illini linebacker Houston Bates had an opportunity to take a Hackenberg pass the other way, before the end of the first quarter, but dropped the pass and gave the Nittany Lions new life.
Penn State carried the momentum into the second quarter with Hackenberg scrambling for a nine-yard touchdown, to give Penn State a 14-0 lead, with 13:13 remaining in the half. The 17-play, 82-yard drive was the longest by Penn State this season.
Following an Illinois three-and-out, Penn State came back and continued to move the ball on the Illini defense. An interference call on a pass intended for Allen Robinson moved Penn State into Illinois territory. Illinois had the opportunity to get off the field on a fourth and three, but Penn State converted, to keep the drive alive. The drive eventually stalled and Penn State missed the opportunity to put more points on the board with a missed field goal from 37 yards by Sam Ficken.
Penn State’s defense continued to put pressure on Scheelhaase and Illinois again failed to pick up a first down. A poor punt by Justin DuVernois gave Penn State the ball at midfield.
An Allen Robinson catch-and-run on the first play of the drive, once again put the Nittany Lions in prime position to add to their lead, but a Jonathan Brown sack and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty pushed Penn State back and forced them to punt.
Illinois was pinned inside their own two-yard line, following Alex Butterworth’s punt, but managed to escape with a 13-yard carry by Josh Ferguson. A couple of Scheelhaase completions moved the Illini into the red zone.
The Nittany Lions defense forced Illinois in to a fourth down situation that would have ended the half, but a roughing-the-passer penalty gave Illinois an untimed down. Taylor Zalewski converted on a 20-yard field goal attempt and gave the Illini their first points of the game.
The Nittany Lions led the Illini 14-3 at the half and the time of possession 18:53 to 11:07.
Penn State received the opening kickoff of the second half and picked up where they left off offensively. Jesse James and Brandon Felder joined in on the offense, as Hackenberg started finding more targets. Illinois defense bent but eventually forced a punt, just after the Nittany Lions moved into Illini territory.
The Illini continued to take back momentum as they methodically marched down the field. Scheelhaase showed why he’s a dual threat quarterback and beat the Nittany Lion defense with his arm as well as his legs. Illinois capped the 13-play, 88-yard drive with a 9-yard touchdown run on a lateral from Scheelhaase to Ferguson. The score brought Illinois to with four with 4:47 remaining in the third quarter.
Later, Scheelhaase continued to showcase his elusiveness, escaping sacks and gaining positive yardage on broken plays. Illinois was able to move the ball down to the Penn State 33-yard line before the conclusion of the third quarter.
Scheelhaase opened the final quarter with a 24-yard pass to Steve Hull on the second play after the stoppage. After Penn State forced the Illini into a third-and-ten situation, Scheelhaase found Matt LaCosse for nine yards to the Penn State four yard line. Illinois elected to keep the offense on the field but Scheelhaase failed to connect with Taylor Barton, turning the ball over to the Nittany Lions.
Penn State managed to escape the shadow of their own goal line, with consecutive carries by Belton to take the ball out to the 22-yard line. They didn’t make it much further and were forced into a fourth-and-one situation, but were given a first down on a running into the kicker penalty. Penn State failed to do anything with the second opportunity and ended the drive with a Butterworth punt.
As rain began to fall at Beaver Stadium, the Illini started their drive at their own 23-yard line. A personal foul helped Illinois move the ball into Nittany Lion territory and Scheelhaase continued to frustrate Penn State with his legs. After missing LaCosse twice in the end zone, Illinois had a third and ten at the 22-yard line. Scheelhaase connected with Jon Davis to move to the 10-yard line. The Nittany Lions sent a blitz on the next play and Scheelhaase made them pay with a seven-yard touchdown pass to Ferguson to give Illinois a 17-14 lead with 5:30 to play.
On Penn State’s next drive, Hackenberg found Richy Anderson for his first reception of the game and two plays later, finds Allen Robinson down the sideline for a completion of 39-yards to the Illinois five yard line. The play was ruled incomplete on the field but overturned following a review.
“Nothing really surprises me with Allen [Robinson],” head coach Bill O’Brien said about his star receiver. “He’s got a great poise about him. He doesn’t get frustrated.”
Penn State took the ball to the one yard line where Mike Svetina forced a Bill Belton fumble. Illinois recovered and took over at their own two yard line.
Following the turnover, Illinois managed to gain just two yards and was forced to punt the ball back to Penn State who would start their next drive at midfield.
The Nittany Lions went immediately back to Belton for eight yards and Hackenberg then found Robinson for 16-yards to the Illini 25-yard line. After a seven yard carry by Belton, Hackenberg twice failed to connect with Felder in the end zone and Penn State was forced to settle for a 35-yard Sam Ficken field goal to knot the game at 17 with 41 secondsremaining in regulation.
After a touchback, Illinois took over. An Anthony Zettel sack of Scheelhaase drained the clock and sent the game into overtime tied at 17.
Illinois won the coin toss and elected to play defense first. Penn State took the ball and continued to feed Belton as he took the first play 11-yards to the Illinois 14-yard line. After a completion to Adam Breneman, the Nittany Lions had a touchdown run by Bill Belton called back on a holding call on Jesse James. Penn State was pushed back to the 15-yard line where Hackenberg would find Kyle Carter on the next play for the go-ahead touchdown. O’Brien praised his quarterback after the game.
“The red zone for young quarterbacks is difficult,” O’Brien stated. “He stepped up in the pocket and made a great throw.”
The touchdown meant that Illinois would need a touchdown to stay alive. Penn State had other ideas as Ryan Keiser intercepted Scheelhaase on Illinois’ first play and secured a 24-17 win for the Nittany Lions.
“Everybody did a great job,” Keiser expressed after the game in recognition of his teammates. “It was the definition of a team win.”
It may have been a team win, but Allen Robinson continues to improve his individual resume as he climbed into fourth place on Penn State’s all-time list for receiving yards. He jumped O.J. McDuffie, Kenny Jackson and Jordan Norwood with Saturday’s performance.
Bill Belton also had a career day, becoming the first Penn State back since Larry Johnson in 2002 to record 200 rushing yards in a game. He finished the day with 201 yards on the ground.
Penn State will go back on the road next week to take on Minnesota in Minneapolis before coming back home to host Purdue and Nebraska.
Jason Shawley is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.