ILL: Game Breakdown

The good, the bad and the ugly from Penn State's come-from-behind win over Illinois at a snowy Beaver Stadium Saturday.

The weather was ugly for Penn State's matchup with Illinois here Saturday, as a heavy snow blanketed Happy Valley.

Likewise, both offenses were ugly, as the Nittany Lions and Fighting Illini combined for less than 500 total yards, exactly 17 points, eight (count 'em, eight) fumbles and three interceptions.

The special teams were ugly, too, as the tilt featured three attempted field goals gone awry, a blocked punt and a muffed punt return. And the officiating was ugly, with one video review after another.

The outcome, however, was a thing of beauty from Penn State's perspective. The Nittany Lions scored a late touchdown and caught a break when Illinois missed a potential tying field goal on the final play of the day, escaping with a 10-7 victory.

Penn State (8-1, 5-0) is now the only Big Ten team that is undefeated in conference play. The Nittany Lions enjoy a bye week before heading into a difficult closing stretch against Nebraska at home, then Ohio State and Wisconsin on the road.

They will do it with the newly crowned winningest coach in Division I (all levels) history, as the victory over Illinois was the 409th of Joe Paterno's career. It moved him one past Division I-AA icon Eddie Robinson of Grambling.

Asked about his team's knack for winning tight games, Paterno attributed it to nobody panicking. Even when things get ugly.

“We have proven to ourselves that we'll stick together and make some things happen,” Paterno said. “Now whether that is going to be good enough against some other people, we'll have to see.”

You can see our game breakdown below.

MAN O' THE HOUR: LB Gerald Hodges continues to play like an All-American. His ridiculous line included 19 tackles, two pass break-ups, a sack and a forced fumble.

CLOSE SECOND: TB Silas Redd ran hard. The Illini made him earn every inch he gained. He finished with 137 yards and the game-winning score on 30 carries.

HONORABLE MENTION: DT Devon Still may have played his best game. He had 10 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and a sack. And it sure seemed like he was being held a lot.

OPPOSING MVP: OLB Jonathan Brown had 11 tackles, a sack and forced a fumble for Illinois (6-3, 2-3).

TURNING POINT: Trailing 7-3 and facing fourth-and-6 at the Illini 32 late in the fourth quarter, Penn State QB Matt McGloin dropped back. Instead of hitting WR Justin Brown underneath, he went deep for WR Derek Moye. Moye drew a pass interference penalty that kept PSU alive. Redd scored the game-winning touchdown on a 3-yard blast four plays later.

STRONG STRATEGY: With the offense struggling, Penn State dusted off Moye, who missed the previous two games with a broken foot. He did not see the field until the third quarter. On the winning drive, he caught two passes for 29 yards and drew the key penalty.

BY THE NUMBERS: As noted, Redd rushed for 137 yards. It pushed him over the 1,000 mark for the season. The rest of the Lions rushed for a combined minus-26 yards.

JOE SHOW: Paterno was not on the field before the game. He worked from the press box in both halves. He did not ride the team bus to the game, either, instead arriving in an SUV.

ASSISTANT ASSESSMENT: Still had 10 tackles. So did fellow DT Jordan Hill. Larry Johnson is due for a little love in this department.

GREAT PLAY: Late in the second quarter, Derek Dimke lined up for a 26-yard field goal attempt for Illinois. Holder Tim Russell mishandled the snap and tried to throw a pass. He was pressured by -- who else? -- Hodges, and the duck was picked by defensive end Sean Stanley. It kept the score at 0-0. The botch would come back to haunt Ron Zook's team.

NOT-SO-GREAT PLAY: After a nice Brown punt return set PSU up at its own 38 early in the third quarter, Redd rushed for two yards. Then McGloin attempted a quick out that CB Terry Hawthorne read perfectly. The interception was too easy.

SPECIAL DELIVERY: Backup DE Brad Bars blocked Justin DuVernois' punt early in the fourth quarter. It led to a short drive that culminated in Anthony Fera's 30-yard field goal, which cut Illinois' lead to 7-3.

BUSINESS AS USUAL: The Penn State defense has given up 62 points in five Big Ten games.

HIT SQUAD: S Nick Sukay laid a heavy shoulder into scrambling Illinois QB Nathan Scheelhaase, popping the ball free in the second quarter. Stanley recovered.

HIDDEN HERO: LB Nate Stupar had nine tackles and a sack, and recovered a fumble. He's always around the action.


• McGloin was not exactly on fire in his second start of the season. But it is difficult to understand the staff going to Rob Bolden for most of the second quarter. He was 0-4 and hit hard -- a lot. QBs coach Jay Paterno defended Bolden's poor play by saying he was hit when he threw. Duh. Everyone brings the house against Bolden because they realize he does not have a good feel for things in the pocket. The goofy two-QB routine nearly cost PSU in this game.

• We love RB Brandon Beachum. Great kid. But what was he doing playing in the first quarter (and being thrown for a loss on his first carry, as PSU was nearing the Illinois red zone)? Beachum had been out of action since early in the season with an ankle injury. Stephfon Green and Curtis Dukes are both better ball-carriers. Neither touched the pigskin Saturday.

• Fera had his first real off day of the season. He missed a 43-yard field goal attempt and averaged 35.9 yards on eight punts.

• Only four Penn State players caught passes in this game -- Brown, Moye, Devon Smith and FB Michael Zordich.

• The frequent snowballs from the student section were idiotic.


• With Wisconsin's loss at Ohio State Saturday, Penn State is now two-game ahead of the rest of the pack in the Leaders Division of the Big Ten.

• On a positive note for the student section, it was cool to see the kids scrambling to fill in the seats behind the south end zone goal post when Dimke was trying to tie the game with a late 42-yard field goal. He plunked it off the right upright and the students went nuts.

• CB Stephon Morris was back in action after missing the Northwestern game for unspecified reasons. He was limited to special teams, though.

• FB Joey Suhey did not play due to the lingering effects of a stinger.

UNANSWERED QUESTION: Will the bye week allow the PSU offense to regroup for the stretch run?



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