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No. 7 Penn State Defeats Illinois 30-13

No. 7 Penn State (3-0 overall, 1-0 Big Ten) defeated the Illinois Fighting Illini 30-13 (1-2 overall, 0-1 Big Ten) on Saturday at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Illinois.

Both offenses struggled throughout the game, and Penn State led just 13-7 at the end of the first half. It took until the fourth quarter for the Nittany Lions to take control of the game, with a touchdown from Nick Singleton sealing the deal. Penn State ultimately won 30-13 to start its Big Ten schedule on a good note.

How It Happened

Illinois won the toss and elected to receive first. Running back Reggie Love III had consecutive runs to gain a first down, then quarterback Luke Altmyer completed a pass to Casey Washington to get the Illini into Penn State territory.

On 3rd-and-9, Altmyer completed a pass to Isaiah Williams to pick up another first down after an incompletion and a false start to set up shop at the 32-yard line. The Illini had two incompletions and a three-yard run by Williams, and then Caleb Griffin missing a 47-yard field goal attempt ended the once-promising drive.

Penn State then went three-and-out on its opening drive. A one-yard Singleton run, then two incompletions from Drew Allar kept the Nittany Lions off the board.

The blue and white bounced back with Kobe King recovering a Dominic DeLuca-forced fumble at Illinois’ 43-yard line. Singleton had a five-yard rush, then he caught a pass for 18 yards before being pushed out of bounds at the 20-yard line. Three plays later, a 13-yard pass to Tyler Warren put Penn State at the 2-yard line. However, the Illini defense stuffed multiple rushing attempts and kept Penn State to a field goal, which Alex Felkins made to give the Nittany Lions a 3-0 lead with 5:27 left in the first quarter.

Illinois moved the ball decently up to its own 43-yard line, but things quickly took a nasty turn. Altmyer threw his fourth interception of the season to Abdul Carter, who made it all the way to Illinois’ 37-yard line for his first-career pick. The Illini were handed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, which started Penn State’s drive at the 22-yard line.

Despite starting in a good field position, Penn State went three-and-out once again. Kaytron Allen had a three-yard loss on the first play, and then Allar was sacked for another three-yard loss. He threw an incomplete pass intended for Malik McClain, and Felkins kicked a 45-yard field goal to make it 6-0 with 1:43 left in the quarter.

Then, on the second play of Illinois’ drive, Daequan Hardy picked off Altmyer for the third consecutive Illini turnover at the 43-yard line. Two backfired runs set up 3rd-and-6 for Allar, who completed a 13-yard pass to KeAndre Lambert-Smith to end the first quarter. Penn State followed that up with two four-yard runs and another 11-yard pass to Warren, putting Penn State at the 21-yard line. Then, a nine-yard pass to Allen put the Nittany Lions at the six-yard line, who scored a four-yard touchdown two plays later to make it 13-0 with 11:04 left in the second quarter.

After Illinois’ first three-and-out of the game, Penn State was back in business at its own 39-yard line. A Singleton three-yard rush and Allar’s 19-yard pass to Theo Johnson put the Nittany Lions into Illini territory, with Singleton reaching the 28-yard line after a false start the previous play. A personal foul on Lambert-Smith set the Nittany Lions back 15 yards two plays later, and Allar fired an incomplete pass to bring up 4th-and-17 on Illinois’ 35-yard line. Felkins wasn’t so lucky this time, as his 52-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Jer’Zhan Newton.

Illinois capitalized on the momentum, as passes to Bryant, Ashton Hollins, and Washington, along with three runs, put the Illini at Penn State’s five-yard line. Love barreled into the end zone, pushing off a Nittany Lion on the way in to cut the lead to 13-7 with 2:08 left in the half.

Starting at his own 35-yard line, Allar fired an incomplete pass intended for Liam Clifford. Olu Fashanu was called for holding on the next play, which brought Penn State back to its own 25-yard line for 2nd-and-20. Allar completed a two-yard pass to Lambert-Smith, which brought up a challenging third down. Despite being on 3rd-and-18, Allen was handed the ball, and it wasn’t anywhere near enough for a first down.

Then, a five-yard run for Williams and Altmyer’s seven-yard pass to Tip Reiman were followed up by back-to-back incompletions, and a five-yard pass to Griffin Moore brought up 4th-and-5 to close out another drive.

Allar’s first pass was blocked, then his next was broken up. He ripped an eight-yard run to set up 3rd-and-2, and he scrambled to set up a first down. Then, Allar threw a 33-yard dot to Clifford, who dove out of bounds on Illinois’ 11-yard line while catching the ball to stop the clock at 10 seconds. However, Penn State successfully went for the field goal with five seconds left, taking a 16-7 lead into halftime.

Penn State started the second half with a five-yard run from Allen to bring the Nittany Lions to Illinois’ 32-yard line. McClain dropped a pass, which brought up 3rd-and-5. Allar’s pass intended for Clifford sailed wide, and the Nittany Lions punted the ball away.

Meanwhile, Altmyer completed a four-yard pass to Williams, and then the two connected for an explosive 32-yard play to put Illinois at the Penn State 25-yard line. However, Altmyer then threw his third interception of the day to Johnny Dixon, who put the Nittany Lions at their own 28-yard line.

Allar’s eight-yard completion to Lambert-Smith and one-yard pickup by Singleton set up 3rd-and-1. What could’ve been an easy first-down pickup was lost after a false start, and Allar threw another incompletion to end the drive.

Love had consecutive one-yard gains, but holding calls against both teams brought up 3rd down at his team’s 24-yard line. The down was repeated again due to an offensive pass interference call, and on 3rd-and-22 Love had a 20-yard gain. The Illini tried to get the Nittany Lions to jump offsides but ended up punting on 4th-and-2.

After a one-yard gain by Allen, Allar tossed a 10-yard pass to Kaden Saunders. Allen got the ball again and picked up five yards, but Allar’s next pass was batted down to set up 3rd-and-5 on the Illini 46-yard line. His next pass, which was intended for Dante Cephas, was nearly intercepted.

Illinois went three-and-out, continuing the trend of defensive domination. Penn State quickly got into a 3rd-and-1 situation on the next drive, but converted with Allar’s 19-yard pass to Singleton. He then fired a four-yard pass to Johnson, which was followed up with a 27-yard gain by Allen. Then, at the Illini’s 11-yard line, Allar tossed the ball to Trey Potts, who found Warren in the end zone to make it 23-7 with 2:14 left in the third quarter.

Altmyer picked up a first down on the next Illini drive, but was sacked for a nine-yard loss by Zuriah Fisher and Adisa Isaac. Then, he threw his fourth interception of the game, with Cam Miller picking him off at Illinois’ 30-yard line. A decently-filled Memorial Stadium emptied almost as if a fire drill was taking place to begin the fourth quarter.

After this, Penn State seized firm control of the game with a 16-yard touchdown run from Singleton to make it 30-7 with 14:24 left in the fourth quarter. Illinois once again didn’t generate much offense, and the Nittany Lions regained possession at their own 42-yard line.

Beau Pribula replaced Allar at quarterback. He didn’t attempt any passes, instead rushing for 13 yards over four attempts. The sophomore went for it on 4th-and-1, but didn’t reach the line to gain.

Illinois’ Malik Elzy had a 19-yard touchdown reception at 4:21 in the fourth quarter, but it wouldn’t be enough. Penn State ultimately won 30-13 to triumph over the Illini.

Takeaways

  • Penn State’s defense dominated the game, with four interceptions, six tackles for loss, one fumble recovery, and two quarterback hurries. This performance should eliminate any further concerns regarding Manny Diaz’s group.
  • The offense did not look good for much of the game, and they didn’t capitalize off of turnovers. Four of five turnovers didn’t result in touchdowns, despite three of the ensuing drives beginning in Illinois’ territory. While they did result in field goals, squandering touchdowns on that many opportunities shouldn’t happen.
  • Drew Allar looked uncomfortable, as the offensive line allowed a sack and three quarterback hurries. The boys up front will need to patch that up if Penn State is to win games against better opponents, as this team will go as far as Allar can take it.
  • Penn State took seven penalties in the game, with four of them on offense and three on defense. That number needs to decrease in the future, especially as one was unsportsmanlike conduct and another was a personal foul.

What’s Next?

Penn State plays Iowa in the White Out at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, September 23 at Beaver Stadium.

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About the Author

Nolan Wick

Nolan is a third-year journalism major from Silver Spring, Maryland, which means he's an avid fan of all D.C. sports teams. If Nolan isn't writing about or watching sports, you can probably find him listening to all sorts of music or traveling. To keep up with Nolan, you can follow him on Twitter @nolan_wick or email him at [email protected].

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