Penn State Football: Winners & Losers from the Week 5 Game vs. Illinois
Despite a 0-2 start to the season, Penn State is off on a three-game winning streak with a 35-7 dismantling of Big Ten rival Illinois in an emotional game for both sides.
The Nittany Lions handle business in all three phases of the game, dictating their will on offense while stifling every attempt the Illini made to get back into the ball game.
So which players came out on top after the game and who's on the wrong end of the popularity bar?
Here's the winners and losers from the Penn State vs. Illinois game.
Winner: Matt McGloin
It wasn't really the numbers that stand out when it comes to McGloin's performance.
The voice of the Nittany Lions put up a respectable, but not stellar, 18-for-30 with 211 yards and a score, averaging 7.0 yards per attempt. But it was the consistency and poise that showed through once again.
McGloin didn't have to be spectacular in a game where his running backs and defense did more than enough to dispose of the Illini. He commanded the offense, ran the right plays and stayed mistake-free once again.
You can't ask any more of your quarterback in a game like that. It was exactly the game they needed from him.
Loser: Nate Scheelhaase
Scheelhaase may have tossed for 270 yards but that was about the only positive you can take from his performance.
Penn State smothered the junior all day, holding him to just 5.9 yards per attempt and forcing two picks, both by Mauti. Scheelhaase also led the team with 11 carries but barely picked up seven yards.
He was hurried constantly and hardly had a chance to establish any sort of rhythm. At a time when Illinois is trying to regain their composure, it was the last thing they could afford.
He hasn't been particularly impressive all season, and things aren't looking very good for him right now.
Winner: Zach Zwinak
Zwinak stepped up with a solid 94 yards on 18 carries last week against Penn State, possibly earning him some added carries heading into this game.
But in came Bill Belton, and it was easy to expect Zwinak to take a back seat.
But that wasn't exactly the case. Zwinak performed admirably in a timeshare situation, logging 100 yards on another 19 carries and tacking on his first two rushing touchdowns of his career.
In two weeks, he's proven that he has to continue to get a noticeable share of the carries, as he's averaging 4.9 yards per carry.
When you have another game that will win you more playing time in the coming weeks, you come out a winner.
Winner: Bill Belton
It's probably safe to say that nobody expected Belton to have a monster game coming off an ankle injury that sidelined him for three weeks, but it was a good sign to see him get 16 carries and average 4.1 yards per career.
Belton also snagged three passes for 16 yards and a score. The sophomore stayed healthy, which was critical, and provided solid production in his first game back.
Coach Bill O'Brien wasn't going to overwork him on his first week back, but those 16 carries are a very good sign.
Along with Zwinak's performance, Belton showed he could be part of a very dangerous backfield duo.
Loser: Sam Ficken
Things just can't get much worse for this guy.
Heading into the game, Ficken was already 2-6 on field goals, including the infamous four missed attempts in the loss to Virginia.
Penn State provided him with a few more opportunities this weekend but missed a 47-yarder (granted not the easiest attempt) and then was blocked on a chip shot from the one-yard line right before halftime.
He's staring down the barrel of losing his job.
Winner: Michael Mauti
Mauti has been one of the most vocal opponents of the Illinois recruiting efforts following the NCAA sanctions on Penn State after the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
He backed up with frustrations with big play after big play.
The senior recorded six tackles and a forced fumble. But his most noteworthy contribution was on his first of two interceptions, when he picked off Nate Scheelhaase at the goal line with Illinois threatening just before the half and returned it 99 yards.
If only he had one last gasp left or could have reached just a little bit farther, but no matter. He still kept the Illini from getting to within 21-7 and building momentum heading into the break.
Big day from one of Linebacker U's best players this season.