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Penn State Cruises Past Illinois 63-24

No. 10 Penn State beat Illinois 63-24 in the team’s Big Ten opener Friday night at Memorial Stadium.

Miles Sanders led the Nittany Lions to victory with a career-high 200 rushing yards and three touchdowns.

How It Happened

Despite picking up 49 receiving yards on Penn State’s first drive, tight end Jon Holland fumbled on his second catch of the night. Trace McSorley covered a ton of ground before delivering a booming hit on Michael Marchese to limit the damage.

Sanders scored the game’s first points on a 14-yard touchdown run with 9:17 left in the first quarter. Both teams’ kickers missed their first field goal attempts, as Chase McLaughlin pushed his wide right from 55 yards out and Jake Pinegar saw his go left from 44.

Reggie Corbin tied things up with a 2-yard rushing touchdown, but Sanders gave the Nittany Lions the lead again thanks to a 2-yard score of his own early in the second quarter. Freshman tight end Pat Freiermuth scored his first career touchdown on a 5-yard pass from McSorley to make it 21-7.

McSorley has now thrown a touchdown pass in 32 straight games.

Illinois quarterback M.J. Rivers hit Ricky Smalling for a 6-yard touchdown to cut Penn State’s lead to one possession with 6:47 left before the half. McLaughlin nailed a 42-yard field goal to make it 21-17 as time expired.

The Illini took their first lead of the game on Smalling’s 17-yard touchdown catch, but Sanders responded with a 48-yard strike down the right sideline with 8:36 to go in the third quarter. Sanders’ 14-yard touchdown pass to McSorley was called back due to an ineligible receiver downfield.

McSorley found Juwan Johnson for a 16-yard score to give the Nittany Lions some breathing room, then linebacker Jan Johnson hauled in his first career interception to set up a 21-yard KJ Hamler touchdown catch the very next play. Ellis Brooks also had an interception late in the game.

Cam Brown and Shareef Miller provide pressure off the edge.

Ricky Slade, one of 14 true freshmen to make the travel roster, scored on a 61-yard touchdown run to make it 49-24 with 9:58 to go in the game, then found the end zone from 1 yard out five minutes later. He finished with 94 yards on just 10 carries. Journey Brown capped the scoring with a 6-yard rushing touchdown.

McSorley joined Christian Hackenberg as the second Penn State quarterback to eclipse 8,000 career passing yards in the victory, while also setting a new career high in rushing yards with 92. Safety Jonathan Sutherland led the defense with eight tackles.

Player of the Game

Miles Sanders | Running back

The Pittsburgh native couldn’t have played better, averaging 9.1 yards per carry before coming out of the game for good.

What’s Next?

The Nittany Lions (4-0) return to Beaver Stadium next Saturday for the team’s annual White Out game against No. 4 Ohio State.

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About the Author

Ethan Kasales

Ethan’s a senior journalism major who grew up in Lemont, a few minutes from campus. When he’s not covering Penn State sports, you can usually find him golfing or teaching snowboarding at Tussey Mountain. Feel free to email him at [email protected].

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