Aug 31, 2013; Champaign, IL, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini defensive back V

Illinois Football: Penn State Gameday Preview

Illinois vs. Penn State

Saturday, November 2nd – at Beaver Stadium; University Park, Pennsylvania

  • Kickoff – 11:00 a.m. (CST)
  • Television – ESPN/WatchESPN
  • Radio – Fighting Illini Radio Network | Sirius/XM Radio (92/196)
  • Weather – Cloudy, 37-55 degrees, 30% precipitation (via weather.com).
  • Odds – PSU is listed as 11-point favorites.

Quick History

  • 21st meeting, PSU leads series (16-4).
  • Illinois lost to Penn State in their last game in Happy Valley, 10-7, in the snow when Derek Dimke’s last-second field goal attempt bounced off the right upright
  • The Fighting Illini have won two of the last six meetings (2007 and 2010).
  • Sixth-year senior offensive lineman Corey Lewis is Illinois’ lone Pennsylvania native on the roster.

Mandatory Credit: Bradley Leeb-USA TODAY Sports

Here are some quotes from head coach Tim Beckman’s press conference this week:

On who will have to fill Lankford’s spot:

“We’ve got Steve Hull back, so you’ve got three seniors [at wide receiver] that have played a lot of football: Myles Osei, Steve Hull, and Spencer (Harris). That means a Martize Barr, a Devin Church that has played a little bit of running back and a little bit of wide receiver, and Justin Hardee are the other names that will have to take over that role along with D.J. [Dionte] Taylor and Pete Bonahoom. Those will be the faces you’ll see out there with Lankford being out.” (Source: fightingillini.com)

What do you see from Penn State?

“I think they’ve got some new faces, they have four offensive linemen back that we played against last year, so they have some familiar faces, they’ve got a great wide receiver, got a freshman quarterback, and probably things weren’t clicking for them last week as you watch that film, but, boy, did they play a good game against Michigan. Defensively, you’ve got up-front guys that are older, that are senior-type guys that are older that are good football players. You’ve got a linebacker that’s back, and a secondary that’s a little bit like ours, got some new faces that continue to be building. They’re older than we are; they’ve got six or seven seniors they start on defense and I think five on offense. I still think Penn State is Penn State. They are very physical, they do what they do well, which they always have, and I think Coach (Bill) O’Brien has done a great job with this program.” (Source: fightingillini.com)

How do you try to shield the players from negative media and fans?

“All I’m stressing is the positive things they’ve done and we’ll continue to do that. We’ll watch the film of them making the good play and then we’ll show them not making that good play and say `Hey, you’ve done it. We just have to do it on a more consistent basis.’ And that’s the bottom line: we have to be more consistent because we can play good football and we’ve shown that.” (Source: fightingillini.com)

Gameday Thoughts

  • The Illinois defense needs to play a lot better this week compared to their last three games. Since Big Ten play began, the Illini defense has given up an average of 45.7 points per game. This cannot happen if the Illini want to win this game in Happy Valley. The best way to keep Penn State from scoring is to pressure their freshman QB early and often.
  • Josh Ferguson needs to become the Josh Ferguson we saw when the season began. Ferguson has rushed for 51 yards on 17 carries combined in the Illini’s last two losses to Wisconsin and MSU. The run needs to set up the pass and the run game starts with Josh Ferguson. If he cannot rush the ball effectively, then Bill Cubit will not be able to use him in the passing game like he would like to.
  • Wide receivers Steve Hull and Martize Barr need to step up in Lankford’s absence. It was almost a deadly blow to the Illini offense when fans heard that Ryan Lankford’s college career was over after he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury against Michigan State. However, life goes on for the Illini. Hull and Barr need to prove that they can get the job done in place of the Illini’s best receiver this season.

Injury Report

The Illinois Fighting Illini could be missing three key players when the team kicks off against PSU today. First, the Illini will be without wide receiver Ryan Lankford for the rest of the season. Lankford broke a bone in his shoulder during the team’s homecoming loss to Michigan State. However, he might not be the only player missing from the action on Saturday.

Two question marks entering the game are defensive lineman Vontrell Williams and defensive back/kick returner V’Angelo Bentley. Williams is a game-time decision due to a foot injury. Bentley was moved to doubtful status on Thursday with a foot injury of his own.

Prediction

This will be yet another hard game for the Fighting Illini in the middle of their Big Ten schedule. Illinois has looked very bad since the team faced off against Nebraska to begin October, and many Illini fans are giving up on this season. This has the making to be a close game, but I wouldn’t hold my breath hoping the Illini come out victorious.

Final Score: Penn State 35, Illinois 27

Make sure to follow me on Twitter @RickyWidmer.

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Tags: Football Illinois Fighting Illini Penn State Nittany Lions

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