21 October 2006

Final: Penn State 26, Illinois 12

My prediction: Penn State 35, Illinois 10
Final score: Penn State 26, Illinois 12

Illinois opened the second half with more of the same: the option running game. They ran the ball well too, until Juice Williams threw an interception to Anthony Scirrotto (who returned the ball to the Penn State 47). However, Morelli overthrew a wide open Deon Butler that would have put Penn State on top, and the Nittany Lions were forced to punt.

Jeremy Kapinos put another punt inside the 20, and A.J. Wallace downed the ball on the 2 yard line. The defense held Illinois to three and out and an 18 yard Derrick Williams punt return gave the Nittany Lions the ball on the Illini 34 yard line.

What transpired next is a shocker: Penn State actually moved the ball down the short field, into the red zone, and scored a touchdown to take the lead! Tony Hunt had a nice 10 yard run, and Terrell Golden pulled in a 17 yard catch before Morelli found tight end (!) Kevin Darling for the 3 yard score.

An Illinois penalty on the subsequent kickoff put Illinois inside their own 5 yard line for the second consecutive possession. Linebacker Paul Posluszny stripped Juice Williams and cornerback Tony Davis picked up the ball and walked into the end zone for the second Nittany Lion touchdown in a 55 second span.

The Nittany Lion defense continued its strong play on the ensuing possession when Anthony Scirrotto picked off his second pass of the game. However Morelli took another sack and Penn State punted again. Illinois continued to run the option successfully, but stalled at the Penn State 20 and kicked its fourth field goal of the day to bring the score to 17-12.

The teams traded possessions for most of the fourth quarter with Penn State getting the edge in the field position battle. On a strange play with 2 minutes left in the game, the Penn State defense sacked Juice Williams forced a fumble. Defensive end Josh Gaines picked up the fumble and headed toward the end zone, and then fumbled the ball himself and Illinois recovered. Later in that series Dan Connor sacked Juice Williams in the end zone for a safety.

On Illinois' subsequent free kick (from the 20 yard line), Illinois attempted an onside kick which was returned 29 yards by Anthony Scirrotto for a touchdown and a 26-12 Penn State lead.

Penn State won this football game, with no real help from the offensive line or the offense in general (184 total yards). The defense kept the team in the game, and actually gave Penn State the lead with Tony Davis' fumble return for a touchdown. The other key for the Nittany Lions was punter Jeremy Kapinos (a season-high 8 punts, 45.5 yard average, including 4 inside the opponents' 20). Finally, Scirrotto has a very nice game with 2 INTs and the late kickoff return for a TD.

The outcome of the next two games at Purdue and Wisconsin are definitely in doubt if Penn State continues to play this badly.
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