Penn State's leaders stepped up when needed when facing the Fighting Illini of Illinois. Penn State took a 14-0 lead after two rushing touchdowns (TD) . One by Bill Belton (who had 201 yards on 36 carries) and Quarterback Christian Hackenberg. The Nittany Lions appeared to be heading into the half with a shutout, but were hit with a roughing the passer penalty at the end of 2nd Quarter that gave Illinois another play to put three points on the board.
After a rushing TD by Illinois running back Josh Ferguson cut the Nittany Lions lead down to four, Penn State took the ball all the way down to the Illini 39. On 4th & 1 Bill O'Brien elected to go for the first down, but Belton was stopped at the line of scrimmage, forcing a turnover on downs. Illinois would have the ball for the rest of the 3rd quarter, and heading into the 4th.
Illinois would drive the ball all the way down inside the Penn State five and face a 4th & 1 decision, and instead of settling for an easy Field Goal (FG) The Illini elected to go for it, and this time Penn State returned the favor by forcing an incomplete pass causing a turnover on downs. Penn State however would not be able to build off from the momentum from their big redzone stop on their ensuing position and were forced to punt.
Illinois would again get into the endzone and this time come away with a TD after Nathan Scheelhaase connected with Ferguson (who ran for a TD earlier) for a seven yard pass to give Illinois its first lead of the game after being down 14. Penn State looked as if it would respond, especially after another huge catch by Wide Receiver Alan Robinson (which was originally ruled incomplete but overturned due to video evidence) set up the Nittany Lions inside the five. On 3rd & Goal, Bill Belton was lunging for the goal line when the ball popped out and the Illini recovered. Penn State now had left 10 points off the board (pending a PAT). Earlier Placekicker Sam Ficken missed wide right on a 37 yard FG.
Illinois still had all of its timeouts left, meanwhile Penn State was all out of theirs. Illinois went three and out and did not take much time off the clock and punted the ball back to Penn State with 1:44 remaining on the clock at the Illini 49. The Nittany Lions would have to settle for a FG after two pass attempts to Brandon Felder failed to convert for a TD in the endzone. Ficken would come up clutch this time and connect from 35 yards out to bring the game to a 17-17 tie. Illinois had a shot to win in regulation with a timeout remaining in their pockets, but after a sack by Defensive End Anthony Zettel, the Illini would have to settle its and the Nittany Lions differences in overtime.
Penn State would get the ball first to start overtime. On 3rd & 1 from the Illinois five, Bill Belton bounced to the outside and into the endzone, but a Jesse James holding penalty nullified the TD making it 3rd and long from the Illini 15. Hackenberg though remained calmed. Not only was he patient and took a timeout after seeing the play clock die down, but came right back and threw a pass over the middle to Tight End Kyle Carter for a 15 yard TD pass (Carter's first catch of the day). Illinois would get the ball, but Penn State wasted no time as Ryan Keiser picked off Scheelhaase in the endzone.
For Penn State, the win improves their record to 5-3 overall (2-2 in Big Ten play) and look to build on their momentum from their victory heading into Minnesota next week.
- Bill Belton's 201 rushing yards was the first time a Penn State Running Back ran for 200+ yards when Larry Johnson did it back in 2002
- Illinois' lost to Penn State is their 18th straight conference loss, dating back to 2011.
- Penn State has played in overtime twice this season (2-0) The last time Penn State had two games go into overtime in a season was 2002 (0-2)
- Allen Robinson has eclipsed the 1,000 receiving yard mark for the 2nd straight season. The only other Penn State player to do that was Bobby Engram.
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