ILLINOIS: Game Breakdown

The good, the bad and the extremely ugly from Penn State's homecoming pratfall against the Fighting Illini.

Penn State coach Joe Paterno spent about eight minutes addressing the media following the Nittany Lions' 33-13 homecoming loss to Illinois at Beaver Stadium Saturday.

But the essence of his press conference could be wrapped up in two words he used in his opening sentence.

“We stunk.”

They surely did. In falling to 3-3 on the season and 0-2 in the Big Ten, Penn State was whipped on offense and defense. The futility of the passing game (rookie quarterback Rob Bolden was 8 of 21 for 142 yards) was exceeded only by the team's continued inability to mount a rushing attack (26 carries for 65 yards).

Likewise, defensively, the Lions were equally inept against the run and the pass, as the Illini (3-2, 1-1) moved the ball effortlessly

About the only positive from this sun-splashed day is that Penn State now has a bye week to lick its wounds, and reassess personnel and play-calling heading into the second half of the season.

Here is what went down Saturday.

MAN OF THE HOUR: From Penn State's perspective, we have to go with Illinois punt return man Jack Ramsey. His two fumbles gave the Nittany Lions' excellent field position twice. Of course, the hapless PSU offense failed to take full advantage, turning the turnovers into a pair of field goals.

CLOSE SECOND: Lion linebacker Chris Colasanti had a career-high 18 tackles. PSU had 100 tackles on the day, an indication of how the Illini dominated possession.

CLOSE THIRD: Penn State wideout Derek Moye caught three passes for 106 yards, including a career-best 80-yard score. It was his first touchdown catch of the season.

TURNING POINT: Down 20-13 at the break, PSU went three and out to start the second half. Illinois responded with a 68-yard touchdown drive, scoring on a halfback option pass from Jason Ford to Evan Wilson, to take a two-score lead.

SOLID STRATEGY: Illinois ran the ball 54 times, gaining 282 yards on the ground. Which brings us to…

NUMBERS GAME: The Illini's manhandling of the PSU defense allowed them to build a 38:12-21-48 edge in time of possession.

BUSINESS AS USUAL: Penn State's offensive line was bad once again. The Lions averaged 2.5 yards on 26 carries.

SPECIAL DELIVERY: Collin Wagner was good on both of his field-goal tries. Chaz Powell had 82 yards on three kickoff returns.


• The ridiculous string of injuries for the Penn State defense. (Related story by Gordon Jones coming soon.)

• Penn State's terrible play in the red zone on offense and defense. The Lions had to settled for a pair of field goals on their only two trips inside the Illini red zone. Meanwhile, Illinois was 4 of 4 in the red zone, with two TDs and two field goals. The PSU defense has not made a red-zone stop this year, allowing 13 scores (nine TDs, four field goals) on 13 trips. If the Penn State offense met the Penn State defense in the red zone, it would be a classic case of the moveable object facing the resistible force.

• Senior receiver Graham Zug continuing to drop passes. We know it is not for a lack of effort and he is a solid team player and all that business. But at some point, the staff has to move in another direction.

• The Nittany Lion defense being shoved around. Sure, the team has been seriously hurt by injuries. But that doesn't explain a lack of physical play.

HIT SQUAD: Safety Drew Astorino had several bone-jarring tackles for the Lions. Unfortunately for PSU, they were all far down field.

HIDDEN HERO: Anthony Fera had a solid day punting, averaging 44 yards on six kicks despite getting at least one bad snap.

LOST IN THE SHUFFLE: Lion tailback Evan Royster had 35 yards on 11 carries. He is 93 yards away from breaking Curt Warner's school career rushing record (3,398).


• Joe Paterno jogged out onto the field ahead of the team before the game, the first time he's done so this season.

• Freshman linebacker Khairi Fortt made his first start. He had 11 tackles on the day.

• Defensive end Jack Crawford did not play due to a right foot injury. He was on crutches on the sideline.

• Defensive end Eric Latimore started but left after one play after injuring his right wrist. He had a cast on the wrist following the game.

• There was no sign of reserves Derrick Thomas (CB) or Sean Stanley (DE), who have apparently been suspended from the team. PSU is refusing comment on the situation.

• True freshman defensive tackle DaQuan Jones, who played for the first time in the previous week's loss at Iowa, was moved to defensive end in this game to help make up for the personnel losses.

UNANSWERED QUESTION: Can Paterno and his staff save what seems to be a sinking ship?

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