Traditional vs. modern football on display in Big Ten matchup



By Jason Grodsky

Penn State

Joe Paterno has been part of the Penn State coaching staff for 58 years and is in his 42nd season as head coach of the Nittany Lions.

Paterno stands second all time in victories among major college coaching with 366 victories and a winning percentage of 74.8. With such a long tenure as a coach at Penn State, Paterno has become part of the Nittany Lions’ tradition and led his program to two national championships (1982 and 1986).

His dedication to and success with the Penn State program have him scheduled for induction into the College Football Hall of Fame in December.

Penn State’s playing style is that of the prototypical Big Ten team. On offense it pounds the ball with power and toughness.

The Nittany Lions like to force teams to adjust to their style of play by managing the pace of the game. On defense they succeed not by chasing opponents around the field but by containing them.

This year’s team is no different.

Led by steady senior quarterback Anthony Morelli on offense, the Nittany Lions try to open the game up and then wear defenses down with the run.


photo DI multimedia


New school vs. old school

Click to view an interactive presentation about the Illinois vs. Penn State game.

On defense, senior linebacker Dan Connor is another notch in the proud tradition of linebackers at Penn State. Following in the footsteps of great linebackers like LaVar Arrington and Paul Posluszny, Connor has led the Penn State defense to a dominating place as one of the best in the country, ranking ninth in total defense by allowing just 247.2 yards a game.

What has attracted players to Penn State over the years has been its long line of winning tradition, the opportunity to play under Paterno and the chance to play in front of huge Big Ten crowds.

Penn State’s history has players wanting to be the next big-time football player in the long legacy of talent the Nittany Lions have produced. Up until recently, Paterno’s recruiting classes have primarily brought in big, tough players.

However, like any good coach, Paterno has recognized the need for great athleticism and has lured players like wide receiver Derrick Williams to Happy Valley, who in return has electrified crowds with his jaw-dropping breakaway speed in the open field.

Penn State’s jerseys are timeless. There is no flashiness or sparkle to them, just plain white with blue numbers and a blue collar.

The simple and old-fashioned uniforms reflect Paterno’s style and the Nittany Lions program. The classic white helmet with a blue stripe down the middle exemplifies their dedication to tradition.


In just his third year at Illinois, head coach Ron Zook has installed a new attitude and brought optimism to a program that came into the season having made just two bowl appearances in the last 12 years.

In only his sixth year as a college head coach, Zook is making a name for himself around the country as a high energy, tireless worker. Prior to coming to Illinois, Zook led the Florida Gators to 23 victories in three seasons and won a share of the 2003 SEC East Division title.

Along with taking the Gators to three bowl games during his stay as head coach, his 23 victories ranked second nationally among active coaches completing the third year at the helm of their program.

Although Zook only coached the Illini to four victories in his first two seasons, he has already surpassed his season average in 2007 and has players and fans thinking of the possibility of the program’s first bowl appearance since the 2001 season.

When Zook came to the Illini in 2005 so did a new style of play, one built around speed and athletic ability. While Zook’s spread offense has taken some getting used to, it undoubtedly has had a positive effect.

The Illini offense and defense are built around speed at all positions. Last season the Illini led the Big Ten in rushing, and through four games this season they lead the conference in running the ball again behind junior running back Rashard Mendenhall and mobile sophomore quarterback Juice Williams.

On defense the Illini have increased their pass rush with the dynamic play of players like sophomore defensive end Will Davis, whose four sacks last week earned him Co-Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honors.

Great athletes like sophomore cornerback Vontae Davis and freshman wide receiver Arrelious Benn have also added a boost to the program, showing their ability to jump, run and catch the ball on both sides of the ball.

Since the arrival of Zook one thing is for sure: He can recruit.

With the help of upgraded and renovated facilities, the Illinois coach has brought in some of the country’s best athletes and players.

Even after winning just four games the past two seasons, last year’s recruiting class saw some of the best players in the country turn down perennial college football powerhouses to be a part of the rising program at Illinois. This growing amount of talent that keeps flocking to Illinois is proof of the attraction and resurgence of Illinois football.

Gone are the plain orange and blue simple uniform designs worn during the 1990s. When Zook came to Illinois one of the first things on his to-do list was getting the Illini a new look.

Last season the Illini unveiled their new uniforms, which feature sharp orange stripe designs along the lower sides of the jersey and upper sides of the pants. The new uniforms are also lighter and don’t absorb as much water and sweat as the older uniforms, keeping players from getting bogged down by heavy jerseys.

This season the Illini added a third, orange jersey, wearing it for the first time in their season opener against Missouri.