Illinois fought hard in the second half, but were unable to get their first Big Ten victory since the 2011 season. The Illini lost to the Penn State Nittany Lions, 24-17, in overtime after Ryan Keiser intercepted a Nathan Scheelhaase pass in the endzone.
The Fighting Illini started out slow as an entire unit to begin this game, but it was the defense that was able to get things going early and keep their team in the ballgame.
The Nittany Lions were able to score touchdowns on their first two possessions of the game. The first touchdown came off of a Bill Belton 5-yard run and the second touchdown came off of a Christian Hackenberg 9-yard run.
However, the Illini defense would develop a “bend, don’t break” mentality and keep PSU scoreless until under a minute left in the game.
Because the defense was able to keep the Nittany Lions scoreless for so long, this gave the offense an opportunity to pick things up in the second half.
Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase was able to lead the Illini down the field twice for two second half scores. The first score came in the third quarter on a Josh Ferguson 8-yard run and the second touchdown came in the fourth quarter on a 7-yard pass from Scheelhaase to Ferguson.
Both teams had their share of miscues in the game, and the biggest miscue for the Fighting Illini came at the very end of the first half.
Following a short screen pass to Ferguson, Illinois had 30 seconds to snap the ball from the PSU 5 yard line. However, Scheelhaase wasn’t able to snap the ball until the 2 second mark and threw a pass to the endzone that ended up being incomplete. Luckily for the Illini, the referees called a questionable roughing the passer penalty on Penn State which gave Illinois a field goal before the half.
The biggest miscues for the Nittany Lions were their personal foul penalties. Penn State racked up nine penalties in the game that totaled up to 95 yards.
Not only does this loss hurt for Illini fans, but what hurts more is that Josh Ferguson left the game late in the fourth quarter with an apparent hamstring injury. After a run following a Bill Belton fumble, Ferguson limped off the field and looked to have stiffness and pain in his left hamstring.
If Josh Ferguson misses additional games for the Illini, that means the offense will be without their leading rusher (Ferguson) and their leading receiver (Lankford).
Illinois will get set to head to Bloomington, Indiana for a Big Ten match-up with the Indiana Hoosiers next week. Illinois fans pray that the Illini will snap their 18 game losing streak in Big Ten game next weekend.
The last Big Ten win for the Illini came against the Indiana Hoosiers during the 2011 season.
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