Keiser Rolls!

It was a single dramatic play, fittingly defensive, that carried the cold, overcast day for Penn State, as they defeated Illinois 24-17 in OT.  Having scored a touchdown on their own possession in the OT period, the Lion defense rose up to the occasion on Illinois’ first play with an INT of Scheelhasse by Ryan Keiser, who grabbed the tip, and rolled to the ground securing both the ball and victory.

It was a strange game to say the least.  The over/under was somewhere around 55 points, but only 34 were scored in regulation by these two defensively-challenged offensive juggernauts.  The guy next to me complained all game long about the lack of Penn State defense.  And there sure seemed to be a lot of wide open receivers (although not nearly as many as there were last week!)  Yet, at the end of four quarters, the Illini had but 17 points to show for all of Penn State’s defensive ineptitude.

Seven points came off the board for Illinois thanks to a chop block penalty, and Penn State had a rushing TD called back for holding in the OT before Hackenberg threaded a bullet to Kyle Carter.  Ficken also missed a 37-yarder in the second quarter that almost came back to haunt us just days after Halloween.

What I’m trying to say, is that it seemed like Illinois had scored a lot of points, but instead, they just put up a lot of meaningless numbers.  But when you look at the numbers, they were not that impressive.  Penn State outgained the Illini 250 to 90 yards on the ground, and 490 total yards to 411 for Illinois.  Penn State won time of possession, and despite a fumble on the goal line, we won the turn-over battle with two key INTs.  The first stopped a promising Illinois drive and led to 7 PSU points, and the second ended the game in OT.

And so I scratch my head in disbelief.  Surely our defense played worse than that.  It certainly seemed like we had a hard time stopping Illinois.  Yet, we won.  Hackenberg seemed to be throwing the ball at the ground of open receivers, yet we won.  We fumbled on the one-yard line,  Yet, we won.  We seemed to do everything wrong . . . yet we didn’t.

WE WON!

And though we didn’t cover the 10 point spread, this was a much needed victory.  It wasn’t as exciting or as important as the 4 OT thriller two weeks ago, but it was a pleasant alternative to the debacle we witnessed last week.  The effort of this staff and these players should not be underestimated or underappreciated.  It would have been all too easy to give up after last week.  After all, there’s no Big Ten title to play for.  No bowl game.  And with Minnesota knocking off Indiana, Northwestern and Nebraska, things don’t get any easier next week.

And as much maligned as the defense was after last week, it was fitting that the defense secured the victory this week.

BY THE NUMBERS:

From the GoPSUsports site:

ILL PSU
FIRST DOWNS………………. 27 25
RUSHES-YARDS (NET)………… 24-90 48-250
PASSING YDS (NET)…………. 321 240
Passes Att-Comp-Int……….. 52-33-2 32-20-0
TOTAL OFFENSE PLAYS-YARDS….. 76-411 80-490
Fumble Returns-Yards………. 0-0 0-0
Punt Returns-Yards………… 0-0 0-0
Kickoff Returns-Yards……… 2-37 1-27
Interception Returns-Yards…. 0-0 2-1
Punts (Number-Avg)………… 4-35.0 3-34.3
Fumbles-Lost……………… 0-0 1-1
Penalties-Yards…………… 9-71 11-95
Possession Time…………… 25:08 34:52
Third-Down Conversions…….. 8 of 13 8 of 18
Fourth-Down Conversions……. 0 of 1 2 of 3
Red-Zone Scores-Chances……. 3-5 3-6
Sacks By: Number-Yards…….. 1-4 1-11

Holding Illinois to under 100 yards rushing and 17 points (when they were averaging 31 points per game on the season) are the key stats here.  Penn State also took control with our own ground game–Beltin’ Bill Belton is turning into quite the work horse.  The fumble was concerning, but didn’t change the outcome of the game fortunately.

INTANGIBLES:

The Drum Major over-rotated his first flip but didn’t fall.  The Russian judge deducted two tenths of a point, though.  He stuck the second in the South end zone.

Penn State won the toss and deferred.  Illinois won the toss in the OT.

The attendance is listed at 95,131 and is probably generous.  This is the first game the students really didn’t fill their seats.  Maybe it’s because of mid-terms and everyone was studying.

The overall excitement level was as depressing as the weather.  The wave failed.  The crowd was into it at the end when it counted, but largely it was a blah day.  No Sweet Caroline.  Zombie nation only played before the team came out of the tunnel.  Just a strange lack of enthusiasm and energy.  I’m still going to blame the weather.

Penn State is 17-4 in the overall series against Illinois.

THE B1G PICTURE:

The Suckeyes rolled all over Purdue 56-0.  The Boilermakers are just lucky there are no plays in football that can result in negative points, or they would have been less than zero on the day.

Big Brother beat Little Brother as the Spartans defeated THEM 29-6 to remain unbeaten in the Legends division.

Wisconsin bested Iowa 28-9 to remain one game behind O$U.

Northwestern remains winless in the conference after falling on a Hail Mary pass in Lincoln as time expired.  Final Score: 27-24.  Big Red is one game back of the Spartans.

Minnesota beat Indiana 42-39.

Illinois, Purdue and Northwestern are all winless in the conference.

Future Big Ten member Rutgers eked out a win over Temple 23-20.

SHEDDING TEARS:

1.  Navy–too many ghosts to over come in South Bend

2.  Miami–too much tomahawk chop

3.  UMass–BCS’d by Northern Illinois 63-19.  Style points to break the BCS party?

4.  Pitt–run over by the Ramblin’ Wreck of Georgia Tech

LOOKING AHEAD:

Penn State travels to Minnesota to take on the gophers next week in another nooner.

Minnesota’s season looks like this:

W  51-23  UNLV

W  44-21  New Mexico State

W  29-12  Western Illinois

W  43-24  San Jose State

L   7-23    Iowa

L   13-42  THEM

W  20-17  Northwestern

W  34-23  Nebraska

W  42-39  Indiana

So in the two common opponents, they beat Indiana, whom we lost to, while they lost to THEM, whom we beat.  Two of our three losses have been on the road.

As I drove home from the game today, one of the post game radio hosts had this perspective . . . Penn State fans have to resign themselves to the fact that this team could beat any of their remaining opponents, but could just as easily to lose to all of them.  We may be a few plays away from being 7-1, but we are also a couple plays away from being 3-5.  (I paraphrased a bit.)

And so it is.  Maybe we beat Minnesota.  Maybe we don’t.

The only advice I can give at this point:  Don’t leave the game early.

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