It certainly wasn’t pretty, but the Penn State Nittany Lions will take it. In what was expected by many to be an easy game, as Illinois had looked bad over the last few weeks, the Nittany Lions had to battle in overtime. Penn State was able to fight through mistakes and poor play to pull out the thrilling 24-17 victory.
In the first half, the Nittany Lions grabbed an early 7-0 lead on a Bill Belton five-yard touchdown run. Penn State came out firing on offense, moving the ball all over the Illini defense. However, points were hard to come by, as the Nittany Lions were plagued by a missed field goal and stalled drives near the end zone.
Penn State really struggled coming out of halftime, gaining just 70 yards in the third quarter and giving up an Illinois touchdown.
Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase gave the Penn State defense all kinds of trouble, especially in the second half. He hardly felt any pressure all day and threw for 321 yards with a touchdown. He also added 35 on the ground.
The Illini gained a total of 411 yards.
On offense, the Nittany Lions got good days from Allen Robinson and Bill Belton. Robinson finished with 11 catches for 165 yards. Belton rushed the ball 36 times for 201 yards, both career highs.
Penn State found themselves down late in the fourth quarter with no timeouts, a la the Michigan game of a few weeks ago. Quarterback Christian Hackenberg drove the team down close, but the drive stopped when Belton fumbled on the goal line.
The defense held and got the ball back for Hackenberg and the offense, who tied the game late with a field goal.
In overtime, Penn State started with the ball and scored when Hackenberg found Kyle Carter in the end zone on a third-down play. Ryan Keiser intercepted Scheelhaase’s pass on the Illini’s first play of overtime to seal the victory.
Hackenberg finished the game with 240 yards and a touchdown.
Sure, this game was closer than expected, but it was a good win and a great ending. Penn State travels to Minnesota next week to take on the Golden Gophers.
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