FINAL: Penn State 39, Illinois 0
Penn State 32, Illini 0; 13:07 left 4Q
Illini backup quarterback Chayce Crouch is warming up. And Saquon Barkley is really, really...really good. Talk to you after the game.
End 3Q: Penn State 25, Illinois 0
Illinois is in imminent danger of getting shut out for the first time since Michigan shut out the Illini 45-0 on Oct. 13, 2012. The Illini offense lost eight total yards in the third quarter. They're going backwards.
Penn State 25, Illinois 0; 3:56 left 3Q
Penn State fans are heading for the exits. The Illini offense is putrid, and Lunt is starting to go down (PSU has 3 sacks). Might be time for Chayce Crouch. Just get home as healthy as possible. Purdue -- which is beating Nebraska -- doesn't look like a given anymore for this team. The Illini defense held PSU to another field goal after another short field.
Penn State 22, Illinois 0; 11:18 left 3Q
Well, that's embarrassing. Barkey completed a pass -- no typo -- to Hackenberg for a touchdown, that after a 3rd-and-16 conversion -- that after a kickoff return to the Illinois 42. Terrible start to the second half for Illinois, and this lead certainly seems insurmountable.
Halftime: Penn State 15, Illinois 0
Cubit committed a bit to the run game and Ke'Shawn Vaugh got it going a bit, but a fumbled Lunt snap cost the Illini points. The Illini passed the ball 31 times in the first half and have zero points. Yet, they're still in the game thanks to the defense. They deserve better -- as does Lunt. Cubit might have to bust out some dangerous tricks to score points.
Total yards: PSU 159, ILL 139
First downs:PSU 10, ILL 9
Rushing yards: PSU 42, ILL 22
Penalty yards: ILL 55, PSU 0
Time of posession: PSU 15:31, ILL 14:29
Turnovers: PSU 1, ILL 1
Sacks: ILL 3, PSU 1
Wes Lunt: 14-for-31, 116 yards, 1 INT
Ke'Shawn Vaughn: 8 carries, 38 yards; five catches, 30 yards
Dionte Taylor: four catches, 45 yards
Penn State individual
Christian Hackenberg: 11-for-16, 116 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INT
Saquon Barkley: 12 carries, 66 yards
Penn State 15, Illinois 0; 4:16 left 2Q
The Illini defense has slowed PSU down -- the Nittany Lions made a FG following an 18-yard drive (good field position). To their credit, it's still a two-possession game.
But 15 points is starting to feel insurmoutable for this Illini offense, which again has a case of the dropsies.
Penn State 12, Illinois 0; 11:49 left 2Q.
Drops continue to plague the one-dimensional Illini offense. Dionte Taylor dropped two catchable passes that would have gone for first downs. Wes Lunt isn't getting much help, and he's starting to take some big hits.
The Illini defense finally got to Hackenberg with Dawuane Smoot picking up his sixth sack of the season. Carroll Phillips gets the assist with the rush.
END 1Q: Penn State 12, Illinois 0
Danger time for Illinois. Hackenberg (8-for-9, 92 yards, 2 TDs) has too much time in the pocket and now is confident. The Illini are reliant on Lunt's arm. They have two yards on four carries. The Illini offensive line just is not physical enough, especially in the middle. That has to change in the future if Illinois is going to win Big Ten games.
Total yards: PSU 106, ILL 81
Penalty yards: ILL 40, PSU 0
Turnovers: ILL 1, PSU 0
Penn State 12, Illinois 0; 5:52 left 1Q
Wes Lunt had to be near-perfect for Illinois to win. Well, an interception has put Illinois in a deep hole. He double-clutched on a slant to Geronimo Allison and PSU returned it to the 5-yard line. Hackenberg is now 7-for-7 for 82 yards and two TDs.
Good news: Rob Bain picked up his second blocked PAT.
Penn State 6, Illinois 0; 5:52 left 1Q
Christian Hackenberg was strong on an 8-play, 80-yard drive. The PSU QB is 6-for-6 for 76 yards and a touchdown. Illinois' back seven didn't look so good on that drive, espeically the linebackers, and Hackenberg got rid of the ball quick and accurately. Good news: Rob Bain blocked the PAt. That's four blocked kicks this season for Illinois.
Illinois 0, Penn State 0; 10:29 1Q
Both coaches have been pretty conserative to start, but both these offenses are pretty limited -- PSU due to its offensive and Illinois due to its lack of weapons. Both went conservative on third and long on their first drives. Cubit punted from the Penn State 44 on the Illini's second drive, and Ryan Frain punted into the end zone for a net of just 24 yards.
Another Illini wideout had to step up. Dionte Taylor had two catches for 29 yards on the Illini's second drive. Wes Lunt made a nice scramble and pass to Taylor for a first down but the Illini's second drive stalled.
PSU won toss, deferred. Illinois will receive.
Illini captains: Jihad Ward, Ted Karras, Geronimo Allison and Clayton Fejedelem.
During the Penn State pregame video montage, they showed the highlight of LaVar Arrington jumping over the Illini offensive line for a tackle for loss. Sorry, Illini fans, but that's still cool.
"We Are...Penn State" cheers from the home crowd prior to the game. There are probably 80,000 here and still plenty of empty seats. This place is huge.
20 minutes to kickoff
It's turned into an absolutely gorgeous fall day here in Happy Valley. The scenery -- the fall colors on the mountains -- is breathtaking.
Anyway, there's plenty of college football going on but even more high school football back in Illinois.
Illini commit Kentrail Moran's prep career ended last night as O'Fallon lost 55-17 to Homewood-Flossmoor in a Class 8A first-round game. Moran ran for 226 yards and two touchdowns.
Illini commit Kurk Gavin and Lincoln Way East crushed Jacobs 40-6 in Class 7A and will play 10-0 Libertyville in the second round. Juwane Parchman and Rockford Auburn host Hononegah at 1 p.m.
The PA is announcing the Penn State starting lineups right now. The crowd is starting to fill in, but a lot of fans still have to make it in from the tailgates.
One hour to kickoff
One of my favorite people to talk football with is former Illini All-American lineman Martin O'Donnell. We were just talking about this game and he agrees with what I wrote in my preview. Illinois should mirror the Maryland defensive game plan. Sell out on stopping RB Saquon Barkley and force the Penn State pass game to beat you. Now, Christian Hackenberg made some great deep throws and PSU's receivers made some nice catches to beat Maryland. But stopping the run forced Hackenberg to complete throws (he was 12-for-31) and sit behind a terrible offensive line. But Barkley, a freshman, is one of the Big Ten's best backs already and Illinois can't allow PSU to be multi-dimensional. But that means Illinois' defensive line has to feast against PSU and the Illini secondary would have to hold its own in man coverage. We'll see what Tim Banks does.
As for the Illini offense, they just don't have any gamebreakers right now. Martin agrees that Des Cain, Marchie Murdock or Dionte Taylor has to make a play. Malik Turner has played well the last four games (15 catches, 220 yards) as a deep threat but probably won't make defenders miss. We'll see if Caleb Day continues to play on offense. Starting safety Clayton Fejedelem suffered a left leg injury late against Wisconsin. He looks fine in warmups, but it's something to watch.
90 minutes to kickoff
Penn State is 6-2 and lost both its games to undefeated teams: No. 1 Ohio State (8-0) and No. 21 Temple (7-0). But among Penn State fans, there's still a lot of doubt about this team because they really don't have any impressive wins. The Nittany Lions' strength of schedule ranks 70th among FBS teams (Illinois is 49th) and all their Big Ten wins (Indiana, Maryland and Rutgers) are against teams outside the top-75 in the Sagarin ratings. The Illini (61st in the Sagarin) would be Penn State's best wi. Penn State's November schedule, though -- at Northwestern, versus Michigan and at Michigan State -- is treacherous.
The Illini schedule has been tough already (Iowa 14 in Sagarin, Wisconsin 19 and Nebraska 46). Penn State is 49th in the Sagarin, Purdue is 102nd, Ohio State is 5th, Minnesota is 73rd and Northwestern is 40th. A 2-3 record is expected, but a 3-2 finish would be very encouraging -- especially given the injuries.
Penn State is debuting new turf today. The old sod was installed in October 2015. The new Kentucky bluegrass surface was installed 16 days ago.
Penn State is averaging 99,351 in paid attendance through five home games.
Two hours prior to kickoff
Penn State players just arrivved at the stadium. A few Illini managers on the sideline as well.
It's cloudy but clearing up. Judging by the forecast, it doesn't look like rain is in store.
Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett reportedly was arrested for operating a vehicle while intoxicated and has been suspended for one game. Halloween weekend is a nervous one for coaches. I'm sure Cubit wishes this game were a night game. With an 11 a.m. kickoff, his players likely will be back on campus early this evening.
Other Illini media here today include Bob Asmussen (News-Gazette), Matt Daniels (News-Gazette), Steve Kelly (WDWS), Michael Kiser (WDWS) and Matt Wettersten (WCIA).
Bob tells me this is by far the worst press box in the Big Ten, and he's let the powers at be here know about it. Sidenote, I love Bob.
Two and a half hours to kickoff
I'm told Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas made the trip to State College. There is no official word on a timeline on the release of the external investigation into abuse allegations. The university is waiting on Chicago law firm Franczek Radelet to finish their findings. The preliminary findings resulted in head coach Tim Beckman's dimissal.
Speaking of which, this feels like a must-win for the life of the Bill-Cubit-for-interim-head-coach campaign. Cubit always had to overcome a lot to get the permanent job, but his chances went up with an upset of Nebraska. Win this one, and he'd have a chance to lead this team to seven or eight wins. Lose this one, and he'll be 4-4 with little buzz heading into a Purdue game that he's expeted to win.
Few assistants in the country could have handled the interim role better than Cubit. This team has been well-coached (for the most part) and well-prepared, and the players believe in Cubit. You have to sympathize a bit with him because of the injuries. If this team were healthy, it may have upset Iowa or Wisconsin and might have entered today's game as the favorite.
It will be an interesting November for some coaching candidates from the MAC. Matt Campbell (Toledo is 7-0, 4-0 MAC), Dino Babers (Western Michigan is 6-2, 4-0) and P.J. Fleck (5-3, 4-0) all play each other this month.
As for Beckman, PSU fans still are not big fans of his. Former player Silas Redd wrote a scathing column -- which starts with some colorful language -- on Beckman, in which he says there were "none scummier than Beckman." Context, Silas, context. There was an assistant here that is now a convicted serial child molestor.
I still didn't mind Beckman recruiting Ryan Nowicki in the aftermath of the Sandusky scandal. But he didn't go about it well. Showing up in Illinois gear near campus (he said he didn't recruit on campus, though PSU players say he waited outside their dorms) was bad taste. But Nowicki wanted to leave, and Illinois allowed him that opportunity. Sadly, Nowicki never played at Illinois due to concussions (he transferred to Northern Arizona).
Three hours to kickoff
Good morning from State College, Pa.! Jeremy Werner, your publisher here, in the cozy Penn State press box getting you ready for Illinois (4-3, 1-2 Big Ten) at Penn State (6-2, 3-1). More on the game later.
This is my first trip to Happy Valley. For those inquiring minds, I drove the 10-hour trip. Why? Well, I could fly to Pittsburgh or Harrisburg, but it's a two-hour drive to the nearest airport for me. Then an hour or so at the airport. Then a 90- to 120-minute flight. And then I have to rent a car. And then I have to drive two hours to State College. In the end, it's less stressful, less expensive and just a tad longer to drive to this remote college town in Pennsylvania. They have these things here called mountains, which are really pretty at sunrise.
Was it interesting that I drove by Toledo, Bowling Green and Youngstown State on the way here? Or is that just me? Speaking of which, this is a huge game not only for the Illini but Bill Cubit.
Beaver Stadium is gigantic. They'll have double the average Illini attendance here today, probably more. The press box though? Illinois wins that battle. And Memorial Stadium has a bit more charm. Someone compared this place to giant Erector Set. That looks about right. They've seen a lot of great football here though.
There are a lot of references to "409" on this campus. No, it's not a reference to the industrial cleaning product, rather the number of Joe Paterno's career wins. The NCAA reinstated 112 of those wins -- which were wiped out as punishment for the horrific Jerry Sandusky chid molestation scandal -- restoring Paterno as the most winningest coach in major college football history.
I drove by Paterno's house this morning, which was kind of surreal. National media were parked outside his modest house in the days following his removal as head coach, amid the Sandusky scandal. But it is kind of amazing that such a huge college football figure lived at such a small house -- one that seemingly most middle-class families could afford -- in the middle of town.