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Penn State Blows Out Illinois 56-21 For Fourth Consecutive Win

Penn State football (4-5) blew out Illinois (2-6) 56-21 Saturday night at Beaver Stadium for its fourth consecutive win.

It was a wild start to the game, as the two teams scored 21 points each just in the first quarter. However, the Nittany Lions completely dominated the second quarter and continued their domination into the second half to win this one easily.

With this win, Penn State set itself up nicely for a bowl invite if it so chooses to participate.

How It Happened

Illinois won the toss and deferred to the second half, which gave the ball to Sean Clifford and Penn State’s offense to start the game. The Nittany Lions wasted no time at all, as Clifford connected with Jahan Dotson for a 75-yard touchdown on the first play of the game to give Penn State a 7-0 lead.

The Nittany Lions forced a turnover on the Fighting Illini’s first drive when Keaton Ellis intercepted Isaiah Williams’ pass at Penn State’s six-yard line.

However, Clifford gave the ball right back with a fumble on the first play of the ensuing drive. Illinois took advantage just four plays into the drive when Williams found Brian Hightower for a five-yard touchdown to tie the game 7-7 with 11:06 left in the first quarter.

Penn State took the lead right back on the kickoff return, as Lamont Wade ran it back 100 yards to the house to put the Nittany Lions up 14-7.

As if this game couldn’t get more crazy, Illinois, you guessed it, answered right back with a touchdown of its own. Following a 64-yard run by Williams, Chase Brown punched it in the end zone from 12 yards out to tie this one up at 14 with 9:50 (Yes, 9:50) left in the first quarter.

After a Penn State three and out, Illinois kept its foot on the gas. Williams completed a short pass to Daniel Barker and he took it 38 yards for a touchdown to put the Fighting Illini up 21-14.

The Nittany Lions responded with a 10-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a Will Levis four-yard touchdown run on fourth down to tie the game 21-21 heading into the second quarter.

Penn State got the ball back after an Illinois three and out and was immediately in business. Dotson returned the punt 50 yards to the Illini’s 10-yard line, and Caziah Holmes punched it in a few plays later for his first career touchdown to put the Nittany Lions up 28-21 with 14:04 left in the half.

Following an Illinois punt, Penn State put together a 15-play, 91-yard drive that took nearly seven minutes. Paired with some nice plays from Dotson and Theo Johnson, Keyvone Lee dominated the drive and finished it off with a one-yard touchdown to extend the Nittany Lions’ lead to 35-21 with 5:32 left in the half.

Penn State forced the Illini to punt once again and got the ball back on its own 30-yard line. On the first play of the drive, Dotson took a screen pass 70 yards for a touchdown to put Penn State up 42-21.

The score would remain 42-21 heading into halftime.

After the two teams traded punts out of halftime, Illinois went for it on fourth down on Penn State’s 33-yard line. Antonio Shelton sacked Williams, and the Nittany Lions gained possession with 7:40 left in third quarter.

Once again, each team punted, and Penn State got the ball back with 4:43 left in the quarter. The Nittany Lions drove the ball down the field and faced a fourth down and one deep in Illinois’ territory. Levis connected with Brenton Strange, who made an acrobatic leap, for a seven-yard touchdown to extend the lead to 49-21 to end the third quarter.

Later in the fourth quarter, Levis ripped off an impressive run that included a Saquon-esque hurdle.

The drive concluded with a Caziah Holmes one-yard touchdown to extend Penn State’s lead to 56-21 with 3:32 left in the game.

Illinois couldn’t get anything going on its final possession, and Ta’Quan Roberson came in with Joseph Bruno and Tank Smith (!!!) in the backfield to finish things up for the Nittany Lions.

Takeaways

  • Jahan Dotson: Good at football. The wideout had possibly the best game of his career with six receptions worth 189 yards and two touchdowns. His two touchdowns were both of 70 or more yards, as Dotson dominated Illinois’ defense. Additionally, Dotson had a 50-yard punt return that set Penn State up on Illinois’ 10-yard line.
  • Sean Clifford played arguably his best game of the season Saturday night. He completed 73% of his passes and totaled 285 yards and two touchdowns through the air. Clifford did fumble early in the game, however, he played a great game the rest of the way.
  • After an ugly start, Penn State’s dominated the rest of the game. Brent Pry’s group gave up 21 points and 199 yards in the first quarter but responded with 0 points and 74 yards allowed. The group clearly got its footing for the rest of the game, as Shaka Toney, Antonio Shelton, and PJ Mustipher each had a sack.

What’s Next

Penn State’s fate is still unknown heading into bowl season. However, with four consecutive wins to bring their record to 4-5, the Nittany Lions have a legitimate chance of playing in a bowl game if they choose to do so.

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About the Author

Gabe Angieri

Gabe is a sophomore majoring in journalism and is an associate editor for Onward State. He grew up in Lindenhurst, NY and has had the absolute misfortune of rooting for the Jets, Mets, and Knicks. If you want to see his rants on all of his teams follow him on Twitter @gabeangieri and direct all hate mail and death threats to [email protected]

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