ILL: Game Breakdown

Get the lowdown on the good, the bad and the lousy from Penn State's 26-12 homecoming victory over Illinois at Beaver Stadium Saturday, a game that saw horrendous play by the offensive line, opportunistic play by the defense and a very short visit to the Media Room by Lion coach Joe Paterno.

MAN OF THE HOUR: Penn State safety Anthony Scirrotto had a career game, with a pair of interceptions and an onside kick return for a touchdown. It was PSU's first kickoff return for a score since Larry Johnson had a 97-yarder (at Illinois of all places) in 2001. Also, Illinois tailback Rashard Mendenhall rushed for a career-high 161 yards on 14 carries.

TURNING POINT: Want to know why Ron Zook frustrates fans wherever he goes? Early in the third quarter, with a 9-3 lead, the Illini gained 9, 5, 12 and 9 yards on four straight carries. On second-and-1 from PSU 42, Zook had rookie QB Juice Williams throw a deep pass. The ball was intended for Joe Morgan but Scirrotto flew in for his first pick. The play did not lead to a PSU score, but it completely changed momentum at a critical juncture.

SOLID STRATEGY: PSU defensive coordinator Tom Bradley played a bit of the old bend-but-don't break. It worked, as Williams, talented though he may be, threw two interceptions and lost a pair of fumbles. Also, kudos to head coach Joe Paterno for calling out his offensive line after the game. It's about time the kid gloves come off with this bunch.

NUMBERS GAME: Scirrotto had more yards on returns (59) than the Lions had rushing (40). … Illinois had 358 yards of total offense to Penn State's paltry 184. … The PSU defense came through with six sacks and scored for the first time this season (see “Heads Up,” below).

SURPRISE, SURPRISE: Paterno's postgame outburst, where he repeatedly called his offense lousy, was a bit of a stunner. He walked out of the proceedings after less than four minutes. It is difficult to remember the coach being so angry after a win.

SPECIAL DELIVERY: Punter Jeremy Kapinos' outstanding senior season continued Saturday. In the third quarter, he uncorked a 49-yarder that A.J. Wallace downed at the Illinois 2-yard line. The play changed field position at a key point of the game. Kapinos averaged 45.6 yards on eight kicks, with four being downed inside the 20, and in the process became State's career leader in punting yardage (9,578). At this rate he may capture team MVP honors.

WHAT'S UP WITH: The offensive line? This group appeared to be making progress prior to the Michigan game but has come completely unhinged the last two weeks. The shoddy play Saturday prompted tackle Levi Brown, a senior captain, to call a linemen-only meeting right after the game.

HIT SQUAD: Safety Donnie Johnson flattened receiver Jacob Willis following a catch in the first quarter. Johnson got the worst of the collision, though, injuring an ankle. He missed the rest of the possession and did not play in the second half.

HEADS UP: When linebacker Paul Posluszny stripped Williams near the Illini goal line, cornerback Anthony Davis alertly grabbed the bouncing pigskin and scored PSU's first defensive touchdown of the season. Defensive end Josh Gaines also recovered a fumble on the fly late in the fourth quarter, but in his haste to get to the end zone fumbled himself. Illinois recovered and received a fresh set of downs.

HUSTLE AWARD: Cornerback Justin King did not give up on the play when Mendenhall broke free down the right sideline in the second quarter. King tracked him down from behind, saving a touchdown on the 79-yard run. The Illini had to settle for a field goal on the drive.

HIDDEN HERO: Posluszny had his best game of the season so far, with 13 tackles, a sack and the forced fumble that led to Davis' touchdown. He passed Brian Gelzheiser on the PSU career tackles list with 326, and now only needs 18 to pass Greg Buttle for the school record. Fellow 'backer Dan Connor had 12 stops and a sack for a safety late in the game.

LOST IN THE SHUFFLE: Defensive tackle Ed Johnson had a pair of sacks, caused a fumble and batted a pass.

DID YOU NOTICE?

• Nolan McCready and Spencer Ridenhour alternated to replace Donnie Johnson in the second half. McCready manned the post in the regular defense. On obvious passing downs, Ridenhour played the safety position and McCready slid over to nickel.

• Wallace took over for Johnson as a gunner on punts and did a great job.

• Freshman defensive end Jared Odrick did not play in the game. A source close to the program said he was getting his … ahem … just desserts for a minor disciplinary issue. Look for him to be back in action this week at Purdue.

• True freshman Phillip Taylor has worked his way up to the second team at defensive tackle, behind starter Jay Alford.

UNANSWERED QUESTIONS:

• What changes will we see on the offensive line when the Nittany Lions take on the Boilermakers in West Lafayette this week?

• Whose fans are more riled up right now, Penn State's or Purdue's? The Boilermakers lost at home to Wisconsin, 24-3, in a game that was not close after the middle of the third quarter. You might want to take the under on that game.

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