FINAL: Penn State 35, Illinois 7
CHAMPAIGN — Hands on his hips, Tim Beckman stood on the sideline with a solemn look on his face.
His first season at Illinois is going in the tank.
Penn State added to the Illini's worries with a 35-7 win Saturday. With three minutes left on the game clock, only a few thousand fans remained in Memorial Stadium. Beckman has coached five games at Illinois; the Illini have lost three of them by at least four touchdowns.
Arizona State and Louisiana Tech used the passing game to rout Illinois by scores of 45-14 and 52-24. But this was old-school Penn State on Saturday. The Nittany Lions pounded out 173 rushing yards and played physical defense to earn their third straight win.
Zach Zwinak ran for 100 yards and two touchdowns for Penn State (3-2). Quarterback Matt McGloin was 18-for-29 for 211 yards and a touchdown.
Meanwhile, Illinois (2-3) committed three turnovers and were overmatched on offense, defense and special teams. The Illini offense needed a trick play — a 22-yard touchdown pass from running back Josh Ferguson to Spencer Harris — to reach the endzone for its only score.
HQ Live Report — Penn State 28, Illinois 7 — End of third quarter
Third-quarter star: Justin Duvernois. An underappreciated highlight of college football — when the punter gives a flying chest bump after a successful boot. Duvernois deftly placed a punt inside the Penn State 1-yard line. That allowed him a flying chest bump while heading to the sideline. Good work, sir. Not only that, but the punter put Illinois in position to score its first touchdown.
Third-quarter goat: Illinois defense. On its scoring drives, the Nittany Lions needed only 2:56, 2:28, 2:52 and 2:31. Arizona State and Louisiana Tech didn't need much time, either.
What we're thinking: We're told Robbie Hummel is here at Memorial Stadium today. The former Purdue star is a cousin of Penn State kicker Sam Ficken. So that got us thinking about basketball season, and the first official practice is 13 days away.
By the numbers
57 — Yards on Duvernois' momentum-turning punt
3 — and-out stop by the Illinois defense, which forced Penn State to punt from the back of the endzone
1 — Career touchdown pass for Josh Ferguson, the running back that hit Spencer Harris for the Illini's first score of the day
46,734 — Announced attendance today here at Memorial Stadium
2:31 — Time of the Nittany Lions' latest scoring drive, which ended with a 1-yard touchdown plunge by quarterback Matt McGloin
30 — Percent of the Block I student section, roughly, is still occupied
3 — Times in five games Illinois has been out of the game prior to the fourth quarter
Back at the horn.
HQ Live Report — Penn State 21, Illinois 0 — Halftime
Second-quarter star: Zach Zwinak. The Penn State tailback "might be an All-American before this one's over," as Loren Tate put it. The 232-pound truckload personified the second quarter of the Nittany Lions, who physically overpowered the Illini. The UI defense appeared worn down from being on the field so much. Penn State had possession for 9:50 of the first quarter and pieced together a 72-yard touchdown drive in the second.
Second-quarter goat: Tim Beckman. This Illinois roster, while injured and not a Big Ten title contender, shouldn't be this bad.
What we're thinking: Michael Mauti was critical of Beckman's decision to recruit current Nittany Lions, and the linebacker is backing it up with his play today. Although he was stopped at the Illinois 2-yard line, his length-of-the-field interception return prevented the Illini from scoring and building momentum. Big ups to Miles Osei, who tracked him down and saved the touchdown.
By the numbers
3 - Former Illini applauded during a play stoppage (Kyle Hudson, Rashard Mendenhall and Vontae Davis)
19 - Yards lost by Penn State on a sack by Michael Buchanan and Justin Staples, knocking the visitors out of field-goal range
$3.857 - Million, Bill Self's annual salary at Kansas after his raise last week
208 - The section where most of the Penn State fans are sitting, a smaller-than-usual contingent from State College
1 - Ejection for helmet-to-helmet contact by Earnest Thomas, who left the field to a standing ovation from the students in the north stands
50 - Yard line, where Penn State kicked off on the next play
2 - Road games — at Wisconsin and at Michigan — the next two weeks
1 - Wordy exchange between Scheelhaase and Mauti heading into the halftime locker room
Back at the end of the third.
HQ Live Report — Penn State 14, Illinois 0 — End of first quarter
First-quarter star: Illini helmets. Love 'em. Honorable mention goes to the sunshine and soft breeze. Good day for Tate to work on his tan. Donovonn Young's 52-yard burst was the highlight.
First-quarter goat: Tim Beckman. I feel less bad about saying on last week's Sports Page this is a trainwreck so far. That was being kind. Can't blame fans for staying away when this is the product. Groans filled the stadium as Tommy Davis fumbled Penn State's first punt and the visitors converted the turnover into a touchdown. Penn State has been outstanding in first quarters this season, outscoring the opposition 49-0.
What we're thinking: The Illinois sideline appeared lifeless before Young's burst. Where's the enthusiasm? After last week's embarrassment, you might have expected a fired-up huddle. Instead, Steve Hull, who was slapping helmets, seemed to be one of the few Illini fired up to be playing.
By the numbers
7 - Turnovers by Illinois in the past five quarters
9 - Turnovers forced by Penn State this season
4 - Turnovers committed by Penn State this season
1 - Bad penalty by Terry Hawthorne, whose "targeting the head area" resulted in 15 free yards for the Nittany Lions
1 - Missed penalty by the officials for helmet-to-helmet contact from Penn State's Stephen Obeng-Agyapong on Young
4 - Penalties for the Illini just 7 minutes into the game
1 - Prospect from New Jersey sitting with John Groce, Dustin Ford and the Illinois basketball staff in Section 104. His name: Austin Colbert, who walked into the stadium for today's game at 10:49 a.m. The 6-foot-9 forward arrived in Champaign-Urbana on Friday night for his official visit. Two high-major coaches that were recruiting him — but weren't among his final-four list — told me last night Colbert would be "a solid get" for Illinois
1 - Promising season debut for Supo Sanni, who's playing his first game this season after battling a knee injury
3-for-5 - On field-goal attempts this season after Illinois missed a field goal attempt wide right
7 and 6 - Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley's winning score against Luke Donald and Lee Westwood today in the Ryder Cup
Back at halftime.
Penn State at Illinois — Kickoff
It's 65 degrees under sunny skies. Wind out of the NNE at 3 mph. Forecasted high temperature is 75 degrees.
Illinois won the toss and deferred. Penn State will receive going toward the south end zone.
Illinois captains were Zach Becker, Akeem Spence, Spencer Harris and Glenn Foster.
The folks who cover Penn State have been closely monitoring the interaction between Bill O'Brien and Tim Beckman. There has been none. There are hard feelings there and there will be for a while. O'Brien didn't take too kindly to the way Beckman and his staff visited State College in pursuit of their players after the NCAA sanctions were levied.
Illinois landed offensive lineman Ryan Nowicki, who has yet to play for the Illini.
Here are some predictions from the folks who cover the team.
Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune picked Penn State 21-17
Herb Gould, of the Chicago Sun-Times, picked Penn State 20-17. Herb was kind enough to join us today after covering the Ryder Cup yesterday at Medinah. The Ryder Cup is one of the world’s great events.
Jeff Rice, who covrs Penn State for 247Sports, picked Illinois 20-17
Fletcher Page, of Scout.com, picked Illinois 20-14.
Klee went with Penn State 24-10.
I went with Illinois 20-14.
Loren predicts Steve Stricker will bounce back from a tough day at the Ryder Cup yesterday.
Klee will be back at the end f the quarter.
Penn State at Illinois — 15 minutes before kickoff
Saw former Illini Vontae Davis out and about in downtown Champaign last night. The Indianapolis Colts cornerback has the week off. He’ll be here today. And, no, he was not on the phone with his grandma.
It’s been a rough go of it for Davis, who was traded by the Dolphins to the Colts toward the end of training camp. Through two weeks, quarterbacks had a perfect 158.3 rating when targeting the receiver Davis was covering. They were 10 for 11 for 143 yards with two TDs. Davis, a former first-round pick, is certainly talented enough to be better. Surely he will get it back on track. His brother, Vernon, is having another monster season as the tight end with the 49ers.
Darius Millines, who has missed the last two games, is dressed and going through warm-ups. The receiver probably won’t play with that ankle injury.
His receiver-mate Ryan Lankford is enjoying a monster season. Lankford’s dad (Paul) played for Penn State and later the Miami Dolphins.
I’ll be back with some predictions at kickoff.
Penn State at Illinois — 30 minutes before kickoff
Klee, who just arrived from Nashville, informs me that a large collection of Penn State fans were enjoying themselves near the I Hotel. Klee says they had a big Nittany Lion statue on top of a motor home.
He also tell me the activity outside has picked up since I arrived, says it’s probably the best tailgate of the season to this point.
Penn State’s band is in the house, too. Always cool when you have dueling bands. It’s easy to accommodate the opposition’s band when you’re having trouble filling the stadium otherwise.
Houston Bates, who hasn’t played in two weeks, is on the field going through drills with the rest of the linebackers. He’s listed as the co-starter along with the fantastic freshman Mason Monheim. They will both likely play a lot today.
Steve Hull and Supo Sanni are both going to play today, too. The safeties will help with depth. Keep an eye on Hull after his first hit. He’s dealing with a very tender shoulder that knocked him out of the only game he’s played this season (ASU) pretty early. Sanni is seeing his first action of the season.
No Gene Honda on the public address system today. The White Sox have a very important home game today against the Rays and they’re trying to stay alive for the Central Division title. Hopefully Honda can help them out.
Penn State at Illinois — 45 minutes before kickoff
Bob Asmussen, our regular college football writer, turned 51 yesterday. We hope to have Bob back soon. Bob called me last night to inform me that recruiting guru Tom Lemming will be here today with a boatload of high school players from across the state. I’m going to try to catch up with Lemming at some point today to get a feel on how recruiting is going for Tim Beckman’s program.
The whole team is out on the field stretching. Hugh Thornton is not dressed, the left tackle was injured last week.
Graham Pocic will be back today, likely playing right tackle instead of his normal center spot.
Loren just had a one-sided conversation with Klee about the Freeh Report that essentially doomed the Penn State program. Tate thinks it was unfair that only one side was able to present its case.
For some more pregame entertainment, here’s five things to pay attention to today.
Jeff Rice offers his take on the Penn State program here.
We’ll be back soon.Penn State at Illinois — 60 minutes before kickoff
Good morning, folks. Marcus Jackson here from the Memorial Stadium press box on a picture perfect day for football.
It's "Stripe the Stadium" day and apparently it's "Stripe the Uniform" day for the Illini, too. Illinois, as you may have heard, is breaking out the new matte blue helmets today with an orange block "I" logo. They're wearing orange jerseys on top of blue pants. It's a different look. Penn State is in the familiar white helmet, white top and white pants. One change is they have the players' names on the back for the first time ever.
Pretty decent tailgate going on outside the satadium, but not great. Saw a lot of Penn State folks making their way around the area.
Some reading to get you prepared for the game:
Spent some time with Nathan Scheelhaase earlier this week. The third-year starting quarterback opened up about facing adversity and his faith, among other things.
A whole bunch is different about the Penn State program these days. Read about it here.
I'll be back in few.
Paul Klee will be here later, he'll tell you about the lastest hot-shot basketball recruit visiting John Groce this weekend.
Loren is here, too. He'll tell you staories about drinking beer with Red Grange.