New Hampshire DB Jake Kiley Commits to Penn State
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States like New Hampshire are often overlooked by college recruiters scouring the northeast. With a population of a little over 1.3 million (barely 14.5% of the population of New York City), the talent pool in …

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Penn State rebounds to beat Illinois 35-17

Submitted by on October 4, 2009No Comment
Stephfon Green woke up the offense
Stephfon Green woke up the offense
Penn State (4-1, 1-1 Big Ten) found some much needed life in their running game Saturday, rushing for over 300 yards in their 35-17 victory over Illinois (1-3, 0-2). The win evened Penn State’s early Big Ten record at 1-1.

After losing to Iowa a week ago concerns surrounding the play of the offensive line were brought to new heights. On Saturday in front of an “Orange Out” crowd at Memorial Stadium some of those concerns were put to ease a slight bit. Penn State battled through a tough first half before running back Stephfon Green woke up the offense with a 52 yard run up the left side of the field that ended in the end-zone, giving the Nittany Lions a 7-0 lead. Green’s touchdown run would be the first of five rushing touchdowns in the game for Penn State.

Illinois cut the lead to four points with a field goal and appeared to be ready to threaten to cut the lead to one with a field goal on a momentum shifting type drive late in the first half. Starting at their own one yard line Illinois quickly moved the ball to mid-field and reached as far as the Penn State 23-yard line. Penn State defensive lineman Jack Crawford burst through the line for a 15-yard sack of Illinois quarterback Juice Williams, and a five yard penalty on Williams for intentional grounding took the Illini out of field goal range. Penn State escaped to the locker room at half time with a 7-3 lead.

In the second half it was clear which team had made the adjustments they needed to win, or at least which team had made the correct adjustments.

Penn State took the opening drive of the second half and seemed to have the offense moving smoothly but Derek Moye had a ball knocked out of his hand after a nice run on a slant pass form Daryll Clark. Illinois recovered the fumble at their own 30 yard line. After Eric Lattimore sacked Williams on 3rd and 14 though Penn State quickly got the ball handed back to them. From there, the rout would officially begin.

My personal favorite AP photo from the game.
My personal favorite AP photo from the game.
Using the running game to their advantage, keyed by Clark’s 51 yard dash off the right side of the line, Penn State worked their way down to the one yard line, where Clark would pick up the first of his two touchdowns in the game on a quarterback sneak to put the Nittany Lions up 14-3. After Illinois followed with a three-and-out possession, Penn State put together a 12 play drive that saw ten rushing plays and totaled 79 yards. The final play saw Clark quickly lunge over the offensive line to break the plane of the end-zone.

The Illinois offense had no answers for the Penn State defense as they were forced to punt the football back to Penn State after another three-and-out, their third straight to start the second half. With Penn State up 28-3 after Evan Royster scored on a 15-yard play Illinois finally found a way to enter the end-zone. Williams completed his first touchdown pass of the year by connecting with Jarred Fayson on a 17-yard pass, bringing Illinois to within 18 points of Penn State, 28-10.

Penn State would go on to score another touchdown, seeing Brent Carter rush to the end zone to put the Nittany Lions up 35-10. Illinois would score a late touchdown to set up the final score. 35-17.

Penn State did a nice job of allowing Illinois star wide receiver Arrellious Benn to bend the defense, but not break them. Benn caught five passes for 96 yards but did not score a touchdown. Benn was also not a factor in the special teams game as Penn State was clearly kicking the ball away from Benn on each kickoff. Two years ago Benn returned a kick for a touchdown against Penn State and fueled the Illini victory with a tough touchdown run in the same game.

Linebacker Sean Lee was once again held out of the game after some lingering injuries from two weeks ago. Penn State is hopeful to have him back next week against Eastern Illinois, but do not be surprised if he does not play again next week.

Evan Royster also went over the century mark in rushing yards.

PLAYER OF THE GAME
Stephfon Green gave new life to the Penn State offense, rushing for 120 yards on 13 carries and scoring a touchdown. It was Green’s touchdown that gave Penn State the 7-0 lead in the second quarter. While I can not say for sure, maybe it was that play that made this team realize that they have the advantage on the ground this week. Green’s touchdown scamper went right up the middle of the offensive line after a brilliant block by Lou Eliades. Penn State had a number of long runs set up by nice blocking along all sections of the offensive line.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
Maybe the offensive line is better, but the Illinois defensive line is nothing to get too excited about. Simply put, Penn State made the adjustments where they needed them to win the game. After a bit of a sluggish first half Penn State came out more determined in the second half, showing more of a desire to win. Time will tell if this was a turning point for the Nittany Lions or not, but it certainly looks to be a building block that the Nittany Lions can be proud of.

Penn State also moved up one spot in the AP poll, aided by Oklahoma’s loss to Miami last night. The Nittany Lions are now #14 in the AP poll.

WHAT’S NEXT?
Penn state returns home to take on FCS opponent Eastern Illinois. The Panthers took their first loss of the season today by losing to Eastern Kentucky. The Nittany Lions have never lost to an FCS team. Next week’s game should be a good opportunity to work on some lingering problems and should provide an opportunity to rest some players before preparing for the grueling run that faces them in the Big Ten. Illinois will welcome Michigan State to Memorial Stadium next week in Big Ten conference play.

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