Penn State Runs over Illinois

Mike LewisContributor IOctober 4, 2009

STATE COLLEGE, PA - SEPTEMBER 12: Head coach Joe Paterno of the Penn State Nittany Lions walks on the sideline before the start of their game against the Syracuse Orangemen   at Beaver Stadium  September 12, 2009 in State College, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

Penn State rebounded from last week’s crushing defeat with a resounding 35-17 win against Illinois.

Penn State’s running game was the story, as the Lions ran for 338 yards on the day.  Both Stephon Green and Evan Royster eclipsed 100 yards.  The team played by far its most complete football game of the year, and the offensive line looked imposing for the first time this season.

The defense was dominant once again.  They did not allow a touchdown until the game was out of reach with less than 10 minutes to play.  They held Illinois to just 130 rushing yards—58 of which came from quarterback Juice Williams—and forced three turnovers.  Darryl Clark was efficient in passing for 175 yards, and added 83 yards rushing.

The first half was a close defensive test.  Penn State struck first on an electrifying 52-yard run by Stephon Green early in the second quarter.  Illinois would respond with a 72-yard drive, but Penn State’s defense was able to hold them to a field goal.  The Illini almost scored at the end of the half, but a nice two-minute drill was halted by an intentional grounding, forced by Jack Crawford.  At the half, it was 7-3 Penn State.

Penn State’s much-maligned offensive line finally seemed to gel during the second half, as they imposed their will against the Illini defense.  Penn State dominated the third quarter, as they ran for 208 rushing yards on offense, and allowed no first downs on defense.

Penn State scored 21 straight points to start the second half, giving them a 28-3 lead with about 10 minutes to play.  The offense was clicking on all cylinders for the first time this year and showed a balance of running and passing.

By the time Illinois was able to move the ball on offense, the game was well in hand.  Until they made it 28-10 with about 10 minutes left, the Illini had managed just six yards and a fumble on offense in the second half.

It has already been a rough year for the Illini, whose lone win came against an FCS team, Illinois State.  They have struggled in their other three games as Penn State, Ohio State, and Missouri have beaten them by a combined score of 102-26.

Penn State responded to its first loss nicely.  The offensive line finally showed promise.  While inexperienced, they do have talent, and if they can gel, Penn State can still have a great season.  Although it’s too early for Penn State to talk about a Big Ten championship, with just one loss, it isn’t too late for this team to win one.