Illinois: FOS Breakdown

The good, the bad and the very ugly from Penn State's 27-20 loss to the Illini. Who played well? Who played poorly? Which Lion was hobbling on crutches after the game? Check it out.

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Is Penn State's season slipping away? After talking national championship in the off-season, the Nittany Lions find themselves adrift after falling to Illinois, 27-20, Saturday at a raucous Memorial Stadium.

Many of the problems that were evident after last week's loss to Michigan were still in evidence against the underdog Illini. The red zone offense, the turnovers, the erratic passing — all proved costly as the Lions fell to 3-2 overall and 0-2 in conference play.

“I'm going to have to go back, look at the tapes, spend some time with the players and staff and go from there,” Joe Paterno said.

He had better do it quickly. The Lions' game next week against disappointing Iowa suddenly has the look of a must-win.

Then again, so did this week's game. Here's a closer look:

MAN OF THE HOUR: Man of the half-hour more is like it. Freshman receiver Arrelious Benn amassed all of his 84 receiving yards and 90 return yards in the first half. But his star turn was enough to stake Illinois to a 21-17 lead. And, as it turned out, 21 points were all the Fighting Illini would need.

CLOSE SECOND: Illini linebacker J. Leman had 10 tackles, an interception and batted down a what seemed like sure touchdown pass.

TURNING POINT: Anthony Morelli looked to have a first down on a fourth-down scramble late in the fourth quarter, but the ball came loose as he was going down. Austin Scott recovered his fumble in what has to be the most ironic moment of Penn State's season, but he was short of the first down, giving Illinois the ball and snuffing out the Lions' last realistic hope of tying the score.

SOLID STRATEGY: Illini coach Ron Zook decided to bring in fresh legs in the fourth quarter and was rewarded when freshman quarterback Eddie McGee split Penn State's defense on a 53-yard run that led to an Illini field goal.

NUMBERS GAME: Penn State started five drives in Illinois territory and got a total of three points.

BUSINESS AS USUAL: Penn State's penchant for turnovers has become a devastating affliction. The Lions had three interceptions, a lost fumble and a might-as-well-have-been-a-lost-fumble when Morelli let go of the ball at the end of what would have been the fourth-down run late in the game.

SPECIAL DELIVERY: Benn took it straight up the gut and wasn't touched until he crossed midfeld on his 90-yard kickoff return in the first quarter. He's a stud, no doubt about it. But how does that happen?


• Justin King's decision to return an end zone interception in the second quarter? It cost the Lions 14 yards of field position.

• The half-hearted tackling by Tony Davis and Navorro Bowman on Benn's 29-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter? A fierce defense is supposed to be this team's biggest asset, but the Lions couldn't have looked sloppier on that play. Oh, to be a fly on the wall when Tom Bradley watches the tape.

• The swinging-gate PATs that Illinois favors. Is this strategic wrinkle really necessary?

HIT SQUAD: Kevin Mitchell greeted Austin Scott with a nasty blow when the senior tailback finally got in the game in the second quarter.

TOUGH GUY: Boy, can Jordan Norwood take a hit. Falling backward, the junior wideout was sandwiched between two defensive backs but still held onto the ball for a 43-yard reception to set up a second-quarter touchdown.

HIDDEN HERO: Jeremy Boone had a terrific day, averaging 48.2 yards on four attempts. Punting from his own end zone in the second quarter, he uncorked a career-best 70-yarder that drew gasps from the crowd.

LOST IN THE SHUFFLE: Leman slapped the go-ahead touchdown catch out of Andrew Quarless's hands late in the third quarter.

YOUTH MOVEMENT: Redshirt freshman defensive tackle Abe Koroma came in on the last play of the first half. Redshirt freshman Graham Zug lined up at wide receiver in the fourth quarter.


• That Bowman walked off the field on crutches after the game with an ice pack taped to his ankle?

• That even though Penn State is 0-2 in the conference, the Big Ten's worst team is Notre Dame?


• How good is Benn going to be in a couple of years?

• Are the Lions going to continue using those nonstick footballs? They fumbled three times against Illinois, recovering twice.

• Is Ray Roundtree the last Penn State receiver to get positive yardage on the end-around?

• Did Sean Lee really make 17 tackles?

• Does anybody miss Chief Illiniwek? Anybody?

• Did the better team win? Illinois looked quicker,


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