The High Five
1. Light the Match: Hats off to the senior untility-man who became the only player under Joe Paterno who scored a rushing, receiving and return touchdown in a game. Williams ended the game with 241 all-purpose yards and those three touchdowns. Another big performance that ignited the team and crowd. That touchdown return was like a match to a gas tank, re-igniting the crowd.
2. Department of Defense: With such a high-powered offense, few fans realistically expected a complete shutdown of Illinois' speed and explosion. Aside from a few lapses (see lows below), the PSU defense managed to adjust and contain the lethal combination of Juice Williams and Arrelious Benn. Sure both found success on some breakdowns, but after two 60-yard scoring drives to open the game, the defense managed to force punts, turnover the ball and snuff out drives. And it was a team effort with a variety of players - like Navorro Bowman, Anthony Scirrotto, Maurice Evans, among others - stepping up a different times to get it done.
3. Drivin' Wild: Adversity was something Paterno wanted to see his team respond to, and respond they did. After falling behind out of the gate, Penn State grabbed the lead in the second quarter and never looked back, despite Illinois continually creeping up with scores of their own. The offensive line deserve a pat on the back as they consistently controlled the trenches (and gave up only one sack on the night) and Daryll Clark sure came to play with his heart and his head in a game that had reflections of Michael Robinson's 2005 performance at the Ohio State white out.
4. Thanks Coach: The coaches on both sides of the ball deserve a tip of the hat. Tom Bradley and company made some impressive adjustments, containing Williams and forcing some long drives, while also creating a few key turnovers. The aggression the defense showed from mid-way through the first quarter was impressive for it's intensity and consistency. As for the offensive coaches, they used the arm of Clark, the legs of Williams and the brute force of Royster. Not bad considering Mr. Clutch Jordan Norwood was sidelined with a nagging hamstring injury. Great use of misdirection and motion to keep the Illinois defense reeling.
5. A Few Close Friends: Last, but far from least, the fans came early, stayed late and came BIG. It was a hoefield advantage Kirk Herbstriet once again continually sang the praises of calling it "simply the best" homefield advantage in college football.
The Low Five
1. Can You Give Me a Jump?: With an initial snuffed out drive and two quick 60-yard scores, Penn State came off the blocks slow and put themselves in a postion to play catch-up. They answered, but it forced them to dig out of the hole they created.
2. Missed Opportunities: The Scirrotto interception was a major missed opportunity to put the game nearly out of reach, but PSU could not capitalize. Toss in the fourth quarter Illinois fumble PSU could not convert and the Lions a few opportunities, but given the fact Illinois had two weeks to prepare it's tough to complain to much. Although Stephfon Green has to find the haldle on that ball and get the cough-ups under control.
3. Where's My Man? Despite PSU's containment of Benn as Williams' go-to guy, Benn had 110 yards on only four receptions. However, the Lions had a few breakdowns, particulary on breakdwon between Mark Rubin and Tony Davis resulting in a 54-yard touchdown by Benn in the fourth quarter.
4. Ouch That Hurts: Penn State sure had a lot of guys cramping up during the course of the game like Scirrotto. Luckily the rotations are fairly dep, but PSU is lucky that those issues did not result in major Illinois opportunities.
5. Change That Tune: ABC analyst Craig James sure is changing his tune from the past few years where he called Paterno and "Old fart." Today he joined in with his fellow analysts saying Paterno "still has it" and is "on top of his game."
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