After starting off 0-2, Bill O’Brien and the Penn State Nittany Lions are now on a three-game winning streak and 1-0 in conference play.
Many teams would just continue the collapse after the offseason Penn State suffered.
In fact, one could say they shouldn’t be winning games after watching their starting running back Silas Redd transfer for USC.
And having the inconsistent play of Matt McGloin returning to run the play calls. O’Brien changed all of that into a positive.
McGloin, who threw for his 10th touchdown pass of the year and ran in his second, has been a total turnaround from last season.
He wasn’t needed as much today, as he only threw for 211 yards on 18 completions, as Penn State’s rushing attack led the way.
Watching the one-two punch of Bill Belton and Zach Zwinak combined for 165 of the rushing yards on 34 combined carries. Zwinak, had the bulk of the load and scored twice to pace Penn State.
The defense showed up again today, picking off two passes from quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase and recovering a fumble. This Nittany Lions' team is hot and looks to continue next week as they return to Happy Valley to take on Northwestern.
Junior quarterback of the Fighting Illini, Nathan Scheelhaase, struggles again. Last week against Louisiana Tech, Scheelhaase was pulled after just one quarter of play. Today, he played the full game but much of the same result. Scheelhaase attempted 46 passes, completing 28 of those for 270 yards.
He threw two crucial interceptions as the Fighting Illini was driving to get back into the game. He rushed 11 times for seven yards and could never get it going against this Nittany Lions defense.
The lone score today, came from the throwing arm of freshman running back Josh Ferguson. With today’s performance now in the books, Scheelhaase has accounted for two touchdowns, four interceptions, and 481 passing yards. Not exactly the production the Illinois offense was expecting.
With the second quarter underway, quarterback Matt McGloin connected with Matt Lehman for a 21-yard touchdown reception. After clearing the goal line and scoring, the Illini safety Earnest Thomas cracked Lehman on a helmet-to-helmet contact and knocking him straight to the ground.
Lehman did get up on his own power and walk off the field, but looked very dazed and confused on the sidelines. Thomas who was not only flagged on the play but also was ejected from the game.
This type of contact during play has become a point of emphasis from referees both in the NCAA and NFL. It looked to be a play of pure frustration and trying to intimidate the Penn State receiving corps.
It’s unknown whether head coach Tim Beckman will take further action on suspending the safety or not.