A 36-yard field goal lifted Illinois to a 16-14 victory over Penn State Saturday at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Ill.
In an epic performance of ineptitude that will not soon be forgotten, Penn State mustered just 72 passing yards and were outgained overall by the host Illini. David Reisner's kick was true with eight seconds to play to reach the final margin of victory.
After three, Illinois leads Penn State, 10-7.
The Fighting Illini took advantage of the Lions' third special teams' gaffe of the day to start the second half. Their third quarter kickoff hung up in the wind, and no one on Penn State's return team noticed. By the time they did, Illinois had recovered the kick. It then marched 19 yards on six plays before David Reisner connected on a 28-yard field goal to give the hosts their first lead of the day.
Penn State's offense has not been any better after the break. The Lions have punted on both drives, though they are driving to start the fourth quarter, and face a short third down.
Penn State and Illinois are tied at the half. It's an improbable result, but a deserved one, for James Franklin's 6-4 Lions.
The Lions marched 52 yards on its first series, which netted an 18-yard touchdown pass from Christian Hackenberg to Jesse James. But the Lions have just 81 yards of total offense since, and after a special teams botch near the end of the half, Illinois backup Reilly O'Toole tossed a 1-yard lob to tight end Matt LaCosse to even the score after 30 minutes.
"We have to be able to establish the run game," head coach James Franklin told ESPN at the half.
The Lions also need to eliminate mistakes.
Despite doing nothing on offense after that first drive, Penn State's defense held serve as long as it could. Illinois could do little until it got a new life when Penn State jumped offsides on a 4th and 4 punt with 1:56 to play. It extended Illinois drive, and O'Toole took advantage of it.
Penn State has a 133-113 yards advantage, and but has the game's only turnover. Christian Hackenberg is 5 of 11 for 56 yards, and Akeel Lynch is the game's leading rusher with 42 yards on 13 carries. He was the Penn State player that fumbled, though.
The Lions will receive the second half kickoff.
The Lions started all three drives near midfield, but only could muster an 18-yard touchdown strike from Christian Hackenberg to Chris Godwin on their opening possession. A Sam Ficken field goal attempt was stopped after holder Chris Gulla bobbled the snap, and Penn State's third series, which started at the Illinois 49, was stopped when Hackenberg was sacked on third down.
Illinois has done little right after 15 minutes, though, which is a good thing for James Franklin's bunch. The Fighting Illini have just 22 total yards of offense and one first down. Penn State has 87 yards of offense and six first downs. Of course, 32 of them came on a fake punt run by end Brad Bars that setup the botched Ficken field goal attempt.
Illinois is driving to start the second quarter. Penn State is without linebacker Brandon Bell, who traveled but did not dress for undisclosed reasons. Corner Trevor Williams is back in the lineup after missing the Temple game with an undisclosed injury.