Illinois Falls To Penn State
Oct. 3, 2009
The 15th-ranked Penn State Nittany Lions used an effective running game, with 338 yards on the ground on a wet, windy, 50-degree Saturday, to win 35-17 at Illinois. Running backs Stephon Green and Evan Royster each topped 100 yards - Green with 120 yards on 13 carries and Royster with 17 rushes for 105. Quarterback Darryl Clark carried the ball seven times for 83 yards and was an efficient 17-of-25 passing for 175 yards.
The Nittany Lions led, 7-3, at halftime but used a crushing third quarter to get the win, gaining 208 yards on a pair of drives.
The hosts had no answer for Penn State's second-half show. Illinois followed two Penn State scoring drives with three-and-outs, each ending on third-and-long plays that Illinois tried to convert with short passes.
"A little bit of it has to do with their defense, but in order for us to be successful and for us to win games, we are going to have to play," Illinois coach Ron Zook said.
The Illini managed just 130 yards rushing - 58 of it by quarterback Juice Williams, who was 20-for-36 for 263 yards and threw his first touchdown pass of the season. The senior became Illinois' career leader for total yards with 9,126, passing up previous record holder Kurt Kittner's 8,880.
Penn State coach Joe Paterno, who said earlier in the week that a road trip might be just what his team needed after a 21-10 loss to Iowa, said Saturday's win was the first complete game his team has played this season.
"Earlier in the year we did some things well for a half," Paterno said. "This is the first time I've felt we played well the whole ballgame."
"Our offensive line," said Royster, "played real confident today."
Green gave Penn State its only first-half points on a 52-yard second-quarter touchdown. The sophomore burst through a massive hole behind his left guard and tackle and broke a scoreless tie in a game that had been dominated by rain and wind.
Illinois answered with a 22-yard field goal by Matt Eller with just over seven minutes left before the half, but missed a chance to score again.
After driving the Illini from his own 1-yard line on a series of crisp passes - including three to Arrelious Benn - Williams was flagged for intentional grounding. The penalty took Illinois from a second down at the Penn State 23 to third-and-30 at the Nittany Lions' 43. The incomplete pass to Benn and half-ending interception that followed left the Illini behind for good.
"At halftime we had a chance to make a ballgame of it," Zook said. "We should have gotten points in that last series of the first half."
Zook said his team has time to turn the season around.
"Two years ago we lost two games in the Big Ten and went to the Rose Bowl," he said. "We have a monumental task in front of us and it starts next week."