Lions Revive Running Game in Win Over Illinois
The Nittany Lions bounced back nicely from the devastating Iowa loss to beat Illinois 35 to 17 on Saturday and answered perhaps the team’s biggest question in the process.
After sub-par performances each game this season, the offensive line dominated the Illini defense, propelling the rushing attack to 337 net yards on 40 carries and not allowing a single sack all game.
Runningbacks Evan Royster and Stephfon Green entered the season as one of the best tandems in all of college football, but severely underperformed in the early part of the season. They finally lived up to expectations on Saturday, as each ran for over 100 yards and a touchdown. Green broke a 52 yard run for a touchdown in the first quarter while Royster provided steady dose of solid runs throughout the game.
Royster and Green were joined by a long lost member of the Penn State running attack as offensive coordinator Galen Hall finally allowed Clark to make plays with his feet. Through quarterback draws, options, and roll-outs, Clark brought a new dimension to the offense as he ran for 82 yards and two touchdowns.
While Clark had perhaps his best rushing game as a Penn State Nittany Lion, the same cannot be said for his passing performance. He completed an impressive 17 of 25 pass attempts, but only managed 175 yards as his wide receivers struggled to stretch the field for him. Clark often times found himself in a conservative “dink and dunk” style offense yesterday, and only achieved 7 yards per attempt. He did however keep the ball away from the hands of opposing defenders, which helped preserve the victory.
Joe Paterno’s team passed a big test in rebounding from the tough Iowa loss, but the challenges will only get tougher from here on out. The Nittany Lions successfully exposed the porous Illinois defense, as they fall to 1-3. Penn State will have to build on this week’s performance to succeed against tougher opponents like Michigan, Ohio State, and Michigan State in coming weeks. The anticipated return of captain Sean Lee will greatly boost the already stout defense, but that timetable remains unclear.
The Lions should have little trouble continuing this success next week when they host FCS Eastern Illinois for a 12 p.m. kickoff to be aired on ESPN Classic.