The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

Illini offense sputters in Penn State drubbing

Head+Coach+Bret+Bielma+takes+action+on+the+field+during+the+fourth+quarter+of+today%E2%80%99s+game+against+Penn+State.+
Candice Zhou
Head Coach Bret Bielma takes action on the field during the fourth quarter of today’s game against Penn State.

The Illini (1-2, 0-1) hosted the Penn State Nittany Lions (3-0, 1-0) in the first meeting between the programs since an iconic and historical 2021 meeting where the Illini pulled off a 20-18 upset in 9OT. That was Illini head coach Bret Bielema’s first major win with the program in year one.

The Illini are in a much different position than two years ago, while the Nittany Lions are in an even better position. The Illini came into the game as heavy underdogs after two lackluster performances to open the year, while the Nittany Lions entered with a superstar freshman at quarterback, Drew Allar, who has led the program to dominant wins to start their season. For both teams, it was the first Big Ten game of the season. Both teams were keen on a 1-0 start in conference play, and it was the Nittany Lions who did just that with a punishing 30-13 win.

Illinois had the first possession of the game, and the offense looked alive and well under the guidance of sophomore quarterback Luke Altmyer and junior running back Reggie Love III. However, the drive ended with nothing, as senior kicker Caleb Griffin missed a 47-yard field goal to the left.

Allar and the Nittany Lions offense were stifled on their first drive by a rejuvenated Illini defense, forcing a punt. The ensuing drive for Illinois was cut short on a fumble by sophomore running back Josh McCray. Penn State took over on the host’s side of the field, but Illinois held strong, forcing a field goal, giving the visitors a 3-0 lead.

The following Illini drive ended early again, this time via an Altmyer interception. Illinois’ defense continued to look alive throughout the first quarter with four tackles for loss, forcing another Penn State field goal to make it 6-0. Another interception by Altmyer marked the third Illinois turnover of the first quarter.

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    Penn State scored the first touchdown of the day to take a 13-0 lead early in the second quarter. Illinois’ offense continued to sputter after missing the field goal on its opening drive, punting from their own 18-yard line. Penn State’s field goal was blocked on the next drive by junior defensive lineman Jer’Zhan Newton, which held the score at 13-0.

    Senior wide receiver Casey Washington made a couple of defenders miss as the Illini inched closer to the endzone following the blocked field goal, and Love forced his way into the end zone. The touchdown gave the Illini life, as they made it a 13-7 game with just over two minutes left in the half.

    The Illini defense showed some warning signs from last week, where they collapsed in the final seconds of the first half. Penn State drove all the way to the red zone in just 30 seconds, scoring a field goal to head into the locker rooms with a 16-7 lead.

    The Illini defense started the second half by forcing a three-and-out on the Nittany Lions, putting the offense in good field position early in the half. Altmyer threw an absolute dime to junior wide receiver Isaiah Williams, which was caught at the Penn State 25-yard line, before following up with his third interception of the game, which was also the fourth turnover of the game.

    The defense held strong once again, as defensive coordinator Aaron Henry’s guys responded well to the criticism over the past two weeks. The Illini offense came back on the field and picked up a couple of first downs. However, a penalty and controversial spot forced another punt.

    Altmyer’s struggles continued as he nearly threw his fourth interception of the game, but it was through the hands of a Penn State defender, and Illinois punted once again. The Nittany Lions used some trickery for a half-back option that resulted in a touchdown, making it a 23-7 game.

    Altmyer threw his fourth interception of the game at the end of the third quarter directly to the defender as well. The Illini defense kept them in it all game long, but time after time, the offense lacked the ability to capitalize on momentum. Penn State opened the fourth quarter with a touchdown run to go up 30-7.

    Bielema chose to sit Altmyer for the rest of the game, bringing senior quarterback John Paddock in for clean-up duties. As the stadium emptied, the game wound into a blowout.

    The Illini defense showed up despite the final score. The offense, however, has countless questions to answer over the week leading up to Saturday’s game against Florida Atlantic.

     

    @arrosen76

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    About the Contributors
    Adam Rosen, Assistant Sports Editor
    Hello! I’m Adam and I’m a senior majoring in journalism. I’m one of the assistant sports editors, and this is my second year with The DI. I love to talk about sports, so if you have any questions or desire to talk about a random athlete from 10 years ago or why Messi > Ronaldo, contact me at my email below!
    Candice Zhou, Assistant Photo Editor
    Hey! My name is Candice Zhou, and I’m a junior majoring in accounting and finance. I joined The Daily Illini in spring 2022 as a photographer and am now the assistant photo editor. I love music and singing (I am currently in a band called Too Soon!). I also like traveling, watching movies, playing tennis, etc. Fun fact about me: I am a DJ! If you have any questions, feel free to email me!
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