Illinois pulls off the upset! They beat #7 Penn State in 9 OTs 20-18



Illini Celebrate 9 OT victory photo via Getty images

Happy Valley, Pennsylvania, Beaver Stadium, Penn State University vs. the University of Illinois on October 23, 2021, is The site and date of the most overtimes in a single college game.

Both teams entered the game off a bye week, and both after a loss, Penn State lost to Iowa 23-20 on October 9th, and Illinois lost its homecoming 22-0 to Wisconsin. This game would be Penn State's Homecoming.


Both teams lost their starting OBs in their last contests. Both Sean Clifford and Brandon Peters were cleared for the game. Clifford started for Penn State. Peters was relegated to back-up while Art Sitkowski got the start. Illini coaches thought they could benefit from the running game vs. The Nittany Lions. Running Backs Chase Brown and Josh McCoy did just that: they carried the ball 57 times for 365 yards.

On Illinois first possession Brown had 2 carries for 27 yards before PSU intercepted Sitkowski. On Illinois second possession, McCray carried twice for 19 yards. That set the tone for Illinois for the day it what seemed like a Brett Bielema offense punishing the opponent with the running game and the defense clamping down.


The running game


Chase Brown would have 126 yards in the first half and 232 for the game and Illinois lone touchdown. It was the most yards given up to a single opposition running back in Penn State history. Josh McCray would add 142 yards of his own. It was a good thing the running game was working because the passing game wasn't. Art Sitkowski was 8-19 for 38 yards and 1 pick. He was 0-2 in the 2 point conversion OT. Brandon Peters was 2-4 in OT for two scores.


Penn State did take the early lead in the first quarter on a 42-yard pass play from Sean Clifford to KeAndre Lambert-Smith. They would add to that lead in the second quarter on a 32-yard field goal by Jordan Stout at the 11:12 mark of the second quarter.

With 2:52 left in the half, Illinois would get on the board on a 1 yard run by Brown to make the score 10-7 Penn State at the half.


Illinois started a drive with 4:22 to go in the 3rd.they would take 8 plays to get it down to the PSU 21 before the end of the quarter. Three plays into the 4th quarter Illinois was 2nd and 9 at the Penn State 14. Art Sitkowski would hit Daniel Barker in the end zone for a Touchdown. Still, two penalties were called on Illinois ineligible receiver downfield, which was declined, and Offensive pass interference, which backed Illinois up to the PSU 29. Now at second down and 24. A face mask penalty on a Chase Brown run for no gain put Illinois back at the PSU 14 with a 1st and 10. Brown Exploded for a 14-yard scamper to score his second TD, seemingly. However, a holding penalty put Illinois back to the PSU 24 with a 1st and 20. Illinois would be forced to settle for a field goal and a 10-10 tie with 11:49 left in the game. Regulation ended at 10-10.


New rules this year: In the first OT, each team will get the ball at the 25-yard line and score a touchdown or field goal. If tied, then there will be a second OT with the same parameters. 3rd and subsequent OTs will be 1 play two-point conversions. The 3rd OT will start with a coin toss to see who gets the ball first from the 4th OT on The team having the ball last in the previous OT has the ball first in the next OT.


Penn State had the ball in the 1st OT and notched a field goal. The Illini answered in kind to knot the score at 13 all. In the second OT, the Illini had the first crack and kicked a field goal. Penn State would do the same, putting the game into its third tie at 16-16.


The subsequent four OT periods were one and done. However, Art Sitkowski would sustain an injury to his wrist in the 4th OT on an incomplete pass. Then in the eighth OT, Brandon Peters would complete a shovel pass to Isaiah Williams to make it 18-16.


Penn State would tie it up again on a Noah Cain run. They would fail to convert on their turn in the 9th OT leaving Illinois with a chance to win it, which they did when Peters hit Casey Washington in the back of the end zone with a high pass that Washington jumped up, snagged, and gave Illinois the win.




The defense has been the key.


Owen Carney Jr. Via University of Illinois

Owen Carney Jr, Khalan Tolson, and Kerby Joseph a sack and tackle for loss. And Devon Witherspoon had TWO tackles for loss with a sack. As a team, Illinois had 8 tackles for loss and 4 sacks on the day. Not bad for a defense that is missing its top two inside linebackers in CJ Hart and Jake Hansen. It was a complete domination by the defense, holding Penn State to 227 yards of total offense (62 rushing 165 passing). However, the Illini were still beat a time or two in the secondary. All in all, the defense has been much improved through the course of the year.


Notables

* Owen Carney Jr now has 5.5 sacks which lead the team. He is also tied for the team lead in tackles for a loss with Devon Witherspoon, each with 6

*The win was number 100 for Brett Bielema as a head coach

*Chase Brown was named Big Ten Player of the week. He was also shaken up in the game but should be cleared to play next week against Rutgers.

*The Illinois football team was named the National Team of the Week by the Football Writers Association of America. The Award, sponsored by the Cheez-It Bowl, is awarded weekly to the top-performing team in the nation.

* Illinois has given up only 89 points in the last 5 games (17.8PPG)


Injury front

*It was revealed Monday that Art Sitkowski, who suffered a broken arm, will have surgery Wednesday to repair the damage. In about 4 weeks, he will have surgery on his left shoulder to repair an older injury sustained at Rutgers that never properly healed.


Looking forward

The win puts Illinois at 3-5 and 2-3 in the conference, with Rutgers 3-4/ 0-4 in conference up next.

The Illini are three wins away from bowl eligibility. They certainly will be favored vs. Rutgers and the final game of the year vs. Northwestern. But they will need an upset at either Minnesota 5-2 /3-1 in the conference or at Iowa 6-1 /3-1 in the conference. Being bowl eligible was something that was not expected two weeks ago. It still may not be obtained, but now there is that chance.


Thanks for reading

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