LIVE! From State College (w/video)
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Christian Hackenberg hit Kyle Carter with a 15-yard touchdown pass in overtime and Ryan Keiser sealed the win with an end zone interception, lifting Penn State over Illinois 24-17 on Saturday.
Bill Belton rushed for 202 yards, the first Nittany Lion (5-3, 2-2 Big Ten) to hit the 200-yard mark since Larry Johnson in 2002.
Penn State's Sam Ficken kicked a 35-yard field goal with 41 seconds left in regulation, sending the game into OT.
Hackenberg, who threw for 240 yards, zipped a perfect pass over the middle to Carter for the winner.
Nathan Scheelhaase's first pass of OT was picked off by Keiser. With a strong second half, Scheelhaase rallied the Illini (3-5, 0-4) back from a 14-0 first-half hole to give them the lead.
Scheelhaase was 33-for-52 passing for 322 yards but threw two interceptions — one on Illinois' first drive of the game and one on the last.
Penn State 24, Illinois 17. Final
Illinois' Big Ten losing streak hit 18 in a row when Penn State scored on the first possession of overtime for a 24-17 victory. On the Illini's first play in overtime, Nathan Scheelhaase's pass was tipped and intercepted in the end zone.
Matt Daniels' postgame breakdown here: http://www.news-gazette.com/video/2013-11-02/penn-state-24-illinois-17-v...
Illinois 17, Penn State 14. 5:30 left in fourth quarter
Nathan Scheelhaase connected with Josh Ferguson for a 7-yard screen pass that resulted in Ferguson leaping into the end zone for a touchdown. Can Illinois hang on and end its 17-game Big Ten losing streak?
Penn State 14, Illinois 10. End of third quarter
Third quarter hero: T.J. Neal. The redshirt freshman linebacker from McKeesport, Pa., made a crucial early hit on Bill Belton's fourth-down run, which resulted in Zane Petty coming in and cleaning up the play. The tackle turned the Nittany Lions over on downs at Illinois' 39-yard line. Neal is a player the Illinois coaches have high hopes for, and he proved why on that play.
Third quarter goat: Bill O'Brien. The Penn State coach hasn't been afraid to go for it on fourth down this game, but the one backfired on him when Bill Belton couldn't pick up a yard. He punts that ball and he makes Illinois drive nearly the length of the field again instead of giving Illinois a shorter field.
Third quarter thoughts: Illinois' defense stopped a drive without giving up a field goal or touchdown coming out of halftime. Progress. Nathan Scheelhaase was fired up after that Josh Ferguson touchdown. Christian Hackenberg has played like a true freshman in the second half. Spencer Harris and Miles Osei turned into dependable options for Illinois on that touchdown drive. Can they keep it up? The did on the ensuing drive by Penn State and has the ball inside Penn State territory going into the fourth quarter. Can't ask for much more right now, given how Illinois has struggled lately in the Big Ten.
Penn State 14, Illinois 10. 4:47 left in third quarter.
Nathan Scheelhaase made a heady play and hit Josh Ferguson for an 8-yard score that is actually an 8-yard touchdown run by Ferguson. Scheelhaase was coming dangerously close to running past the line of scrimmage and threw backwards to Ferguson, who went in untouched. All of a sudden, Illinois is only down one possession late into the third quarter. Looks a lot better than what it did earlier today.
Spencer Harris is having himself a game. The senior has a career-high 10 receptions for 81 yards and has provided a nice steady presence for Scheelhaase. Same goes for Miles Osei, who had two big catches to convert third downs on that drive.
Now only if Illinois' defense can get a stop at a critical time ...
Penn State 14, Illinois 3. Halftime
Second quarter hero: Christian Hackenberg. The true freshman quarterback for Penn State hasn't played like one at all today. Expect Bill O'Brien, if he sticks around State College for longer than a few years, to acquire top-flight quarterback talent. Hackenberg is good. Not just throwing the ball, but his 9-yard scramble accounted for the only touchdown in the quarter.
Second quarter goat: Alex Hill. The Illinois center has had a rough few games when it comes to penalties. The Illinois offense had the ball at the Penn State 2-yard line and first-and-goal with 1:14 left when he was called for an illegal snap. The penalty also calls for a 30-second runoff, which cost Illinois since it used its final timeout with 44 seconds left. That came into play when Illinois was bailed out on a roughing the quarterback penalty when Nathan Scheelhaase's pass fell incomplete in the end zone. Otherwise, Illinois would have run out of time and not even attempted the 20-yard field goal Taylor Zalewski made.
Second quarter thoughts: Illinois' defense isn't that good. Will John Groce's team be? The Illinois offense is sporadic. How will John Groce's offense look? Cliff Alexander narrowed his list to four schools last night. Illinois is still one of them. How long will it be until a five-star football recruit seriously considers Illinois? An illegal snap is a 30-second runoff? Didn't know that one.
Penn State 14, Illinois 0. 13:13 left in second quarter
Christian Hackenberg beat Illinois with his feet. Not too many people would have thought that sentence would have happened before todays' game. Hackenberg rushed for a 9-yard touchdown off a QB scramble. Darius Mosely appeared to have forced a possible fumble while Hackenberg dove for the end zone.
Penn State's drive took up 17 plays, the Nittany Lions' longest one of the season. Time and again, Illinois had chances to get off the field, but its defense failed to make a stop.
End of first quarter: Penn State 7, Illinois 0
First quarter hero: Bill Belton. Penn State's running back looked like Larry Johnson Jr. Or Ki-Jana Carter. Penn State's offensive line pushed Illinois around, allowing Belton to post 65 rushing yards on 11 carries, including a 5-yard touchdown run.
First quarter goats: Jonathan Brown, Illinois LB. Brown had a personal foul penalty on third-and-6 from Penn State's 11. Christian Hackenberg's pass was well out of bounds, but Brown' penalty allowed Penn State to not have to settle for a field goal. Alex Hill was called for a chop block to negate 39-yard touchdown pass from Nathan Scheelhaase to Spencer Harris. It's the second straight week Hill has had a penalty called back that would have resulted in a touchdown.
First quarter first impressions: Illinois' offense clicked well early. The Illini ran five plays in 59 seconds and had the ball at Penn State's 20-yard line. Then a holding penalty and an interception by Nathan Scheelhaase halted the promising drive. The Illinois defense doesn't look any better early, with Penn State's offensive line creating plenty of holes. Illinois is showing it can move the ball against Penn State. The question, though, is can Illinois stop Bill O'Brien's offense?
Penn State 7, Illinois 0. 9:44 left in first quarter
Illinois' offense looked good on its first five plays of its opening drive. Loved the quick slant to Steve Hull and giving the ball to Josh Ferguson in space is always a good sign. But penalties and Nathan Scheelhaase's interception were not highlights.
Penn State wasted little time driving down the field with ease. Bill Belton looked like Franco Harris on the drive, which is why the Nittay Lions hold the early lead.
Illinois lost the toss and will receive. Penn State deferred to the second half.
Saw V'Angelo Bentley jumping around on the sidelines. If he's able to go after missing Michigan State last week because of a sprained left ankle, that could provide a big boost to the Illinois return game.
Very dramatic video introduction on the board at Beaver Stadium. Thought I was watching a Lord of the Rings trailer or something like that. Players were in the video saying 'Penn State fans, can you feel it?'
Very tight sideline quarters as well today. Not much room out of bounds for players once they step off the field.
The sun could pop in and out during today's game. It has done so periodically here in the last two hours.
There's a small smattering of orange in the upper deck overlooking the north end zone. Not much of a crowd so far. Lots and lots of empty seats. Of course, the stadium can hold 107,282. Mentioned earlier that Illinois might play in front of its biggest crowd of the season. A little more than 90,000 made their way into Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Neb., nearly a month ago. Not too sure if we'll see that many in the stands today.
Penn State's mascot made its way onto midfield about 20 minutes before the game, urging the crowd to make some noise. They responded half-heartedly. The band ventured out a few minutes later for its pregame festivities.
30 minutes until kickoff
Corey Lewis should have a large contingent of family and friends inside Beaver Stadium today. The starting right tackle for Illinois played his final two years of high school football at East Stroudsburg South High School in East Stroudsburg, Pa., about two and a half hours away from State College. Good for Lewis, who has managed to stay healthy and start all seven games this season for Illinois after knee injuries wrecked the sixth-year senior's 2010 and 2011 seasons.
Now for our favorite part of the Live! report (and yours, too, obviously). Prediction time from the assembled media here covering Illinois. Which isn't much. I went with Penn State 33, Illinois 16, and I'm sticking with that. I just don't think the Illinois defense will contain Christian Hackenberg long enough and the offensive struggles from last Saturday's loss to Michigan State carry over into today.
Chris Hine, Chicago Tribune: Penn State 42, Illinois 24
Steve Greenberg, Chicago Sun-Times: Penn State 34, Illinois 17
Aaron Bennett, WCIA: Penn State 39, Illinois 13
Sean Hammond, Daily Illini: Penn State 28, Illinois 14
Steve Bourbon: Penn State 49, Illinois 10
Lots of Illinois commits in the Class of 2014 in action last night at the high school ranks. All five in-state recruits in that class — center Nick Allegretti from Lincoln-Way East, running back Matt Domer from Chicago Mt. Carmel, wide receiver Mike Dudek from Neuqua Valley, athlete Julian Hylton from Lincoln-Way North and wide receiver Malik Turner from Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin — and their teams won their first-round game last night and will move on to the second round next weekend.
In other recruiting news, Peter Cvijanovic, the brother of Illinois starting left tackle Simon Cvijanovic and a Class of 2014 offensive tackle commit, is expected to be in the stands today. This game suits his travel well since he's playing prep school football in Massachusetts this fall.
First time to Beaver Stadium for me and the roar they use through the loudspeakers is already starting to get on my nerves. I should be used to it though. They used to play it during Eastern Illinois basketball games at good ole Lantz Arena seven years ago when I covered that bad basketball team. Still unsettling, though.
Aside from what the aforementioned media members have for their predictions, here's what our panel of experts from The News-Gazette and WDWS have as the winner of today's game along with nine other college games throughout the day.
Be back at kickoff, and will update this periodically whenever something of note happens at Beaver Stadium. Also follow me on Twitter (@mdaniels_NG) as well.
60 minutes until kickoff
Illinois cheerleaders have made the trip. They're decked out in orange on the sidelines, so I'm sure they'll be easy to spot on your TV or viewing device. Not much orange elsewhere in this stadium, although some event staff personnel have orange vests on. Maybe they're going hunting after this game. Blame the bad jokes on the driving. I left Champaign Thursday morning.
ESPN will have the call for today's game. Beth Mowins will handle play-by-play and Joey Galloway will provide the expert analysis, with Paul Carcaterra on the sidelines. First time for that crew this season to check out Illinois. Talked to Galloway earlier this week, and the former Ohio State wide receiver is eager to see — like most others — what the Illinois defense can do. If anything.
The Illinois team flight was delayed nearly 90 minutes at Willard Airport in Savoy, causing the team to arrive later than anticipated in State College. Hence, no walkthrough for the team last night at Beaver Stadium, but I wouldn't read too much into it.
Walkthroughs on road trips like the one to Penn State for Illinois are basically to let the players know where the locker rooms are and for the quarterbacks to see where the play clocks are. They're usually not long at all — maybe 15 minutes — and are more a chance for players still in suits and ties to get up, stretch, walk around and post a few photos to social media.
For more on the delay and other tidbits, including an injury report, click here.
Penn State students were the first ones in Beaver Stadium this morning. Walked around Beaver Stadium about eight times with WCIA sports director Aaron Bennett last night while waiting for the team to arrive (never did) and saw a smattering of tents set up in the area formerly known as Paternoville. Not nearly as impressive as it used to be.
An Illinois fan told me earlier this week that when you drive up to Beaver Stadium, it still looks like it's under construction. Have to agree with that comment after seeing it yesterday for the first time.
90 minutes until kickoff
Good morning college football fans. Matt Daniels here looking out live from the Beaver Stadium press box on a cloudy, cool morning from State College.
Penn State players made their into Beaver Stadium and walked around for a bit around 8:30 a.m. First sighting of Illinois coaches and players came about 10 minutes later, with a few Illinois specialists out roughly 10 minutes after that. More Illinois players made their way onto the field by 9:15 a.m. to get warmed up for the game. Ditto for Penn State.
Hearing stories about the traffic jams that can result outside Beaver Stadium on game days, I left early this morning from my hotel in Clearfield, Pa., about 40 miles north of State College. Way early. But I avoided what veteran News-Gazette college football writer Bob Asmussen says is a parking lot on game day. Even missed my initial turn for my exit and had plenty of time to get to the stadium. So early in fact that I was the first print media member in the press box. For what that's worth.
But you all don't care about that. You want to know if Illinois will end its 17-game Big Ten losing streak today. Good question. Illinois is 1-7 all-time here at Beaver Stadium, with the lone win taking place back in 2010 when Nathan Scheelhaase was a redshirt freshman. The last time Illinois played here two years ago, snowballs were a common them late in the game Illinois eventually lost 10-7. That was the last game Joe Paterno coached at Penn State, with the revelations about the Jerry Sandusky scandal coming out shortly thereafter.
Had a chance to peruse the Penn State team store inside Beaver Stadium yesterday after I arrived (side note: is there a team store inside Memorial Stadium? Haven't ventured around the stadium much on game day). They had a ton of items in there, from key chains to footballs to cheerleading uniforms for infants. And they also had "Blueout" t-shirts that read "Stop Childhood Abuse." It's good to see Penn State take a proactive approach to the issue that has been most associated with the school the last two years. Sad, though, that the scandal happened in the first place.
For Illinois to pull off a win and end its three-game losing streak it has going this season, players like Jon Davis and Houston Bates will need to contribute significantly. Had a chance to catch up with both Davis and Bates earlier this week, so click here to find out about Bates' love for hunting and other outdoor activities, and click here to find out the respect Davis garners from his teammates and coaches — even when his teammates beat him at video games.
Going to jump on WDWS 1400-AM's pregame show at some point, so next update might not happen in a half hour. But I'll try.