Penn State Escapes with Last Minute 10-7 Win over Illinois

Story posted November 1, 2011 in Sports, CommRadio by Mike Esse

A late Penn State touchdown drive and missed field goal as time expired allowed the 19th ranked Penn State Nittany Lions (8-1, 5-0 Big Ten) to escape Beaver Stadium with a 10-7 victory over the Illinois Fighting Illini (6-3, 2-3 Big Ten) on Saturday.

Penn State running back Silas Redd capped off a late touchdown drive for the Nittany Lions, scoring on a three-yard run with 1:08 to play. Illinois drove furiously down the field, but kicker Derek Dimke missed a game-tying field goal as time expired, and Penn State pulled out another tough Big Ten win.

The victory Saturday also marked another milestone for head coach Joe Paterno, who earned his 409th career victory. This breaks former Grambling head coach Eddie Robinson’s record of 408 wins, making Paterno the winningest coach in Division I football history.

“It is something I am proud of to be associated with Eddie Robinson,” said Paterno. “He is one of the two greatest people we have ever had in college football.

The victory did not come easy for the Nittany Lions. On a cold and snowy October afternoon, both teams seemed to struggle with the elements while on offense. Neither managed a score until Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Spencer Harris at the end of the third quarter.

Penn State’s offense struggled throughout the game, especially in the air. Junior quarterback Matt McGloin had a rough first quarter, prompting the coaching staff to call on sophomore Rob Bolden, who had not played in two weeks. Bolden’s second quarter proved to be disastrous, and he was pulled after losing a fumble on an attempted play action pass.

With the offense struggling to put up points for three quarters, Penn State’s defense was once again called on to carry the team. They rose to the occasion, forcing three turnovers. Defensive end Sean Stanley grabbed an interception on a botched field goal try, cornerback D’Anton Lynn had a pick and linebacker Gerald Hodges forced a fumble.

“Those plays were big game changers,” said Hodges, who had a career high 19 tackles on the day.

The fourth forced turnover came on special teams. A blocked punt helped set up their first points of the game, a 30-yard Anthony Fera field goal with seven minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.

Penn State’s defense made a critical stop late in the quarter, giving the offense the ball for one last shot at the end zone down by four points. The team was confident in McGloin’s ability to lead the drive, despite his struggles.

“He is a poised quarterback,” said defensive tackle Devon Still. “He is not going to let his head out of it no matter how the game is going. He got us into the end zone and won this game.”

The drive would be aided by senior wide receiver Derek Moye, who entered the game in the second half despite still recovering from an injury to his foot. Moye opened up the offense, and McGloin completed passes to him and Justin Brown on the drive.

“We were excited to see Derek back in there,” McGloin said. “What quarterback in the Big Ten wouldn’t want to see Derek Moye out there in a two minute drill like that?”

A pass interference call on a fourth down throw to Moye allowed the drive to stay alive, and Silas Redd would cap it off with a three-yard touchdown run. Redd ran for 137 yards, his fifth straight 100-yard day, and has now passed the thousand yard mark for the season.

“I saw it in Silas last year and in training camp that he was going to be a very good running back,” said Still. “As soon as we hit the Big Ten, he turned it on for us. He has been productive and has continued to carry that offense.”

The team’s use of timeouts on the touchdown drive left Illinois with just over a minute to try to tie the 10-7 game with a field goal. A tired Penn State defense allowed Scheelhaase to complete three passes, including a 20-yarder to AJ Jenkins to get the Illini close. Jason Ford then ran for 9 more to set up a 42-yard try by Dimke.

After Penn State used a timeout to ice Dimke, the student section, appropriately dressed in white for the game, aligned themselves directly behind the goalpost.

“When they came over like that, I was like, ‘What is going on?’” said offensive lineman Chima Okoli. “Then I saw them all coming together and going crazy and I said, ‘This is Penn State.’”

With the student section and a previously botched field goal in his head, Dimke’s game-tying attempt struck the right goalpost and sent Beaver Stadium into a frenzy. Despite the struggles, the team noted that the win mattered most.

“I guess it is just something this team has inside us, needing to make a play to get the job done to get another win,” said McGloin.

“We had to rally and face our adversity that game, but we showed our resiliency and came out with the win,” said Redd. “We control our own destiny in the Big Ten and without a win, things could have crumbled for us.”

Penn State has a bye this week. Their next game will be on November 12th at Beaver Stadium as they play host to 10th ranked Nebraska. The time of that game has not yet been announced. Tune in to ComRadio for complete coverage of the game.

Mike Esse is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him email, mje5164@psu.edu.