Belton clears 200 yards
STATE COLLEGE – Highlights, lowlights, and in-betweens from Penn State’s 24-17 overtime victory Saturday vs. Illinois at Beaver Stadium:
PLAY OF THE GAME: Ryan Keiser caught Adrian Amos’s tip in the end zone as Penn State intercepted a pass intended for Spencer Harris on the first play of Illinois’ overtime possession to secure victory.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: PSU tailback Bill Belton rushed 36 times for 201 yards and a touchdown. He did, however, fumble away a possible game-winning touchdown on the goal line before Penn State forced a 3-and-out to get the ball back for a game-tying field goal. “We try to say to him not to reach out at the goal line, but other than that he had a whale of a football game,” coach Bill O’Brien said.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME: Amos, starting again at cornerback, made seven tackles and had a first-quarter interception off a tipped ball.
ILLINOIS PLAYER OF THE GAME: Nathan Scheelhaase completed 33 of 52 passes for 321 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed eight times for a team-high 35 yards as Illinois rallied with two second-half touchdowns to take a fourth-quarter lead.
CENTRAL MOUNTAIN: Von Walker played special teams, but did not make any returns.
BEST RUN: It was technically a pass, but Allen Robinson turned a dunk behind the line into a 47-yard gain in the first quarter, deep into Illinois territory.
BEST CATCH: Replays upheld Robinson’s 39-yard gain down the sideline to the Illinois 5 late in the fourth quarter in a drive where the Nittany Lions looked to tie or take the lead until Belton’s fumble.
BAD HANDS: Illinois linebacker Houston Bates stepped in front of a Christian Hackenberg pass near midfield with no one in front of him, but dropped a potential pick-six that could have salvaged a dismal first quarter. Brandon Felder also dropped what could have been a game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter before PSU settled for a field goal.
BETTER HANDS: Tailback Zach Zwinak, whose fumble problems led to losing playing time to Bill Belton, wore gloves Saturday in hopes of better ball control. He had six fumble-free carries for 25 yards. “We had a long talk, and he asked about gloves. It’s more for the guy and he wanted to try it,” said O’Brien. “He ran tough but Billy was the hot back.”
WORST KICK: Sam Ficken’s 37-yard field goal wide right would have given Penn State a 17-0 second-quarter lead.
BEST KICK: What Ficken taketh away, he giveth back. Though his 35-yarder to tie the game in the final minute might have been a game-winner had he hit the 37-yarder.
WORST PENALTY: Too many to count, though Illinois put itself into trouble early. The worst of those would be either a hands to the face call against Illinois’ Jonathan Brown on Hackenberg on third-and-6 that extended the Nittany Lions’ first scoring drive, or a chop block that negated a beautiful touchdown catch by Harris on the next drive.
BEST CALL: This would have to be the game-winning touchdown pass to tight end Kyle Carter, a 15-yard pass over the middle that O’Brien said is one of the team’s favorite and best plays because of the options it can create. Carter said the play is known as “pearl” but said he shouldn’t say any more about it.
TELLING STAT: The Nittany Lions played well into the second quarter with only Belton runs and Robinson completions. With Robinson’s 165 yards on 11 catches, the duo combined for 366 of Penn State’s 490 yards of total offense.
TELLING STAT II: Despite early horrendous Illinois penalties, Penn State actually committed more for more yards, with 11 at 95 yards. Illinois had 9 for 71.
HIDDEN STAT: It was a game of better field position for Penn State, with its drives starting at its own 33. Illinois’ average start was its own 17.
BEST QUOTE: Guard John Urschel knew he was a poster child for some of the game’s low points when his tripping penalty helped kill a second-quarter scoring drive that ended with Ficken’s missed field goal. “We have to do a better job of making the most of our opportunities, and a perfect example is a 15-yard penalty on this guy,” said Urschel, pointing a finger at himself.
NEXT WEEK: Penn State at Minnesota, Noon (ESPN2). Illinois at Indiana, 3:30 (BTN)