Penn State notes, grades: Illini football wins nine-overtime shocker, upsets No. 7 Nittany Lions on the road


Photo Courtesy of Fighting Illini Athletics

Illinois’ Owen Carney Jr. (99) and Jartavius Martin celebrate during the game against Penn State on Saturday. The Illini defense and running backs were pivotal in the Illini’s record-breaking upset over the No. 7 Nittany Lions in Happy Valley.

By Josh Pietsch, Sports On-Air Editor

In a game that broke the record for longest game in Football Bowl Subdivision history, Illinois came into Penn State and defeated the Nittany Lions, 20-18, in nine overtimes. 

The game was very low scoring, as regulation ended with the score tied at 10. Both teams kicked field goals in the first two overtime periods, and from there on, it was solely two-point attempts from the 3-yard line.

Neither team scored for the first seven overtimes, then both teams scored in the eighth. The Illini defense then stopped Penn State in the ninth period, and Brandon Peters, replacing injured Artur Sitkowski, found Casey Washington in the back of the end zone to walk it off. What. A. Game. 

Running machines

The Illinois running backs showed out again, which is the only reason Illinois was able to score any points in regulation. Both ran for over 100 yards, with Chase Brown leading the way with 223.

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The Illini finished with 357 rushing yards, which was basically the only part of their offense until overtime. The team finished with only 38 passing yards, and Illinois ran the ball a total of 67 times.

Chase Brown did suffer an injury in overtime, but the run game was almost nonexistent after the second OT period. However, Brown and Josh McCray once again put the team on their backs and propelled the Illini offense.

How about that defense?

I don’t want to spoil too much, but the defense as a whole was phenomenal in Happy Valley on Saturday.

For a defense that last year gave up well over 30 points per game, the improvements that defensive coordinator Ryan Walters has been able to make have been nothing short of outstanding. The Illini didn’t even force a turnover and just wore down the Nittany Lion offense in both the running and passing game.

Coming into the game, Penn State was averaging over 28 points per game. Illinois cut that down by 18 in regulation and barely let them move the ball in overtime.

Offense: B- (A, D)

This grade is so weird to give. So, let’s split it up into two different categories. Rush game and passing game. 

It’s just not fair to include the rushing crew in a grade that isn’t an A. Brown and McCray were outstanding. Brown scored the only touchdown of regulation for the Illini, and 357 rushing yards is absolutely ridiculous. 

Brown and McCray’s abilities to break tackles is a major asset, and the offensive line also blocked very well to open up holes. The passing game was, well, not as good.

Thirty-eight yards. Come on. Now, there possibly should have been a passing touchdown to Daniel Barker from Sitkowski back in the second half, but it was called back due to a questionable and late thrown penalty. But Peters delivered a passing touchdown to win the game so they don’t get an F. 

Credit the whole offense for dominating in time of possession and giving the defense plenty of time to rest.

Defense: A+

Anything short of this would be unfair. That is the best defensive performance I’ve ever watched from an Illini team, and it came against a phenomenal team in Penn State and on the road.

The defensive line was amazing, holding the Nittany Lions to only 62 total yards on the ground. They also were able to put pressure on Clifford, disrupting him and limiting the passing game to 162 yards.

Overtime was nearly perfect. They held Penn State to two field goals in the first two overtime periods and gave up just one conversion in the next seven periods. Both the secondary and the defensive line stepped up, which proves this defensive performance was a whole team effort.

Outstanding, Ryan Walters. Outstanding. 

Special Teams: A-

McCourt missed a 50-yard field goal in tough conditions but made a 37-yarder in the fourth quarter. He also nailed both his field goals in overtime, allowing the Illini to continue on.

Blake Hayes was great, pinning the Nittany Lions back and limiting good field position, which is part of the reason they only were able to score 10 points in four quarters. He’s the best player on the team and the best punter in the country.

What a win for Illinois.


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