USA Today // Rich Barnes

RAPID RECAP: Penn State 39, Illinois 0

Illini shut out for first time since 2012, lose third straight to fall to 4-4 overall

Penn State 39, Illinois 0

What happened

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - Illinois (4-4, 1-3 Big Ten) was shut out for the first time since Oct. 13, 2012 (Michigan) and lost its third straight game. Christian Hackenberg (21-for-29 , 266 yards, 2 TDs) and Saquon Barkley (142 total yards) teamed up to lead Penn State (7-2, 4-1) to its seventh home win of the season. Barkley even completed a touchdown pass -- yes, he threw a touchdown pass -- to Hackenberg. Meanwhile, quarterback Wes Lunt (16-for-36, 129 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT) and the Illini offense (169 total yards) were held under 330 yards for the first time this season.

What went right

Despite the final score, the Illini defense continues to play solid football, which should be enough to give a team a chance to win Big Ten games. Four of Penn State's first five scoring drives started in Illinois territory and then the game just got out of hand. Rob Bain blocked two extra points. That's about as long of a list as I can come up with.

What went wrong

Without top playmakers Josh Ferguson and Mikey Dudek, the Illini offense couldn't move the ball -- again. The receiers had a handful of drops, again, and struggled to win one-on-one battles to get open, again. The offensive line struggled to move its opponent off the line of scrimmage, again -- and allowed three sacks. The Illini are one-dimensional and that one dimension (passing) is inefficient and ineffective. Ryan Frain punted 11 times. The Illini effort hasn't ever looked so lackluster this season.

What it means

Illinois now must win two of its final four games to gain bowl eligibility. Three of the Illini's next four games will be played away from home (at Purdue, at Minnesota and against Northwestern at Soldier Field) and the one home game is against No. 1 Ohio State. Interim coach Bill Cubit's chances of keeping the head job long-term always were slight, but his chances seem non-existant now. 

Star of the game

Clayton Fejedelem: After the Wisconsin, Fejedelem could barely walk on his left leg, hobbling badly in the post game. On Saturday, Fejedelem (11 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 forced fumble) was flying around the field, making plays for an Illini defense that played fairly well.

What's next

Illinois heads to Purdue, which seemed like the Illini's most winnable game on the Big Ten schedule -- until the Boilermakers hammered a reeling Nebraska team on Saturday. Remember, the Illini lost to Purdue last season (Purdue coach Darrell Hazell's only Big Ten win during his first 19 conference games). Purdue is the team with momentum, and the coach that more likely will last to next season. Will the Illini have fight left? Even if they do, does the offense have enough firepower to win a Big Ten game?

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