"They are a good football team," Coach Ron Zook understated afterward. "We're a pretty good team also."
"Playing through a light mist on national television, Penn State didn't have a penalty until the last minute of the game. They did spit up one uncharacteristic fumble, but otherwise their efficiency was too much to overcome.
"Illinois needed to play a perfect game to win in Happy Valley against a great team. They never gave up, but penalties, turnovers and another breakdown on kickoff coverage proved their downfall according to Zook.
""If we don't have penalties on offense, then we have a pretty good night. When you get behind the chains, it's tough. And when you play a defense like that, it's really tough.
""The kickoff coverage, I'm just pulling my hair out on that one. I don't understand that. There was one fourth down in the third quarter we thought was a little closer than that, but we were trying to make something happen. Overall, we are getting better, but we're still not where we want to be yet."
"Senior receiver Derrick Williams showed the country why he was the top rated high school prospect four years ago by scoring touchdowns rushing, receiving and by kickoff return. He accumulated 241 all-purpose yards and was the biggest single difference for Penn State. Williams originally committed to Coach Zook at Florida but switched to Penn State when Zook was fired by the Gators.
""We pretty much held Derrick in check the last two years, but he is a great player," Zook said. "I've known Derrick since high school, and he did some serious things to us tonight."
"Junior quarterback Darryl Clark ran the Nittany Lion offense with poise. He passed and ran successfully, providing the diversity to keep Illinois' defense on its heels. And running back Evan Royster added over 100 yards rushing to Penn State's total. Creative play calling using misdirection and counters froze Illinois' linebackers and safeties, creating cushions both for running and passing.
"Illinois started strong. The defense was dominant early, giving Penn State only five offensive plays before punting. The Illini then moved quickly from their own 40 yard line to paydirt. Juice Williams hit tight end Michael Hoomanawanui for 14 yards, Daniel Dufrene ran for 22 more, and Juice hit Arrelious Benn for 13 yards to the 2 yard line. Freshman running back Jason Ford dove over the top for his first career touchdown.
"But that fired up the Nittany Lion offense. They had five straight plays covering between 10 and 19 yards each, and Clark ran over from the one to tie the game. Illinois came right back with another 60 yard drive, culminated when Benn made a great grab of a Williams pass, scraping one toe in the end zone while falling out of bounds. The 33 yard touchdown made it 14-7 Illini.
"Unfortunately, it took only 7 plays for PSU to tie the game, still in the first quarter. Derrick Williams caught two passes in the drive, the second a 21 yard touchdown strike. A horse collar penalty helped them move down the field, but they seemed invincible at that point and probably would have scored anyway.
"Penalties snuffed out the next Illini drive, allowing Penn State's offense continued momentum. Clark had pass completions of 24 and 15 yards while also hitting Derrick Williams for nine more. Williams scampered the last five yards on a reverse to make the score 21-14. Both teams' defenses stiffened at that point, so there was no further scoring in the half.
"Penn State scored an early field goal in the second half, and Matt Eller matched it with a 43 yarder of his own after Martez Wilson recovered a Stephfon Green fumble. Eller missed earlier from 33 yards.
"Derrick Williams then put a dagger into the Illini by returning the following kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown. He was untouched. Still the Illini didn't quit, Juice hitting Hoomanawanui for 9 yards before finding Benn open long for a 54 yard TD. The Illini were still within 7 points, and Benn was showing his brilliance. Arrelious ended with four catches for 110 yards.
"But the Illini defense couldn't solve the potent PSU attack. Clark passed and ran for big chunks of yardage before hitting tight end Anthony Quarless for the 17 yard touchdown to create the final score. Zook summed up the second half situation.
""We fought, we kept coming back. In the second half, we were in a catchup mode, and that's hard to do when you're playing a good team like that."
"Juice Williams ended with 13 completions in 24 attempts for 183 yards, 2 touchdowns and one interception. He added 64 yards in 18 bruising rushing attempts. Darryl Clark was more efficient with 14 of 20 for 181 yards and two touchdowns with no turnovers, and he netted 50 yards in 11 rushes.
"Daniel Dufrene was impressive running for the Illini despite giving up one fumble. He gained 96 yards in only 14 carries. Freshman Mikel LeShoure added 23 yards in three sorties. Evan Royster led Penn State with 139 rushing yards in 19 tries, and Derrick Williams added 33 in 6 carries.
"Coach Zook knew this and the Missouri games would be tough to win. He is still confident the Illini can reach their season goals.
""You've got to stick to your game plan and put everything together. We're still on track to reach all our goals. We didn't have a goal we were going to go undefeated this year, but we did have a goal that we were going to be a team to be reckoned with. I think we can still be involved with that."