Illini fall to Penn State in ‘White Out’ game

Erica Magda

By Wes Anderson

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – Ron Zook got the emotion he desperately wanted out of his team, but No. 12 Penn State still got the best of No. 22 Illinois in a 38-24 victory Saturday night. It was another loss in another highly-anticipated game, and like the Illini’s season-opening defeat to Missouri, mistakes proved to be the difference.

Poor tackling, soft pass coverage and a litany of penalties – 40 yards worth in the first half alone – meant the Illini could not keep up with the Nittany Lions after falling behind by 10 points midway through the second half.

In the early going, the game relied on the strength of both offenses. After Penn State punted following the game’s first drive, the Illini marched downfield on their first possession, and Jason Ford’s 1-yard touchdown run finished off a six-play, 60-yard scoring drive. It was the first time Penn State had allowed a first-quarter score this season.

But the Nittany Lions responded with a 73-yard drive that knotted the score at 7-7 with 6:16 to play in the first quarter. Like the high-scoring Missouri game, the shootout was on.

Both teams again traded touchdown drives before the end of the first quarter. Quarterback Juice Williams connected with Arrelious Benn at the left pylon for a 33-yard score that was initially ruled incomplete before being overturned. Lions signal caller Daryll Clark then got a touchdown pass of his own on a 21-yard arc to Derrick Williams.

It appeared the first team to make a stop would take control, and after back-to-back holding penalties, the Illini were forced to punt for the first time early in the second quarter. Penn State then scored again, capping off a 57-yard drive with a Williams rush on an end-around.

The Lions would take the 21-14 lead into halftime, and the Illini could not close the gap.