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Fighting Illini Beat Up on Nittany Lions, 33-13

Written by: on Sunday, October 10th, 2010


WesternPAFootball Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK — If you are the Penn State football team, how do you spell relief? In the case of the Nittany Lions, the answer is a simple one. B-Y-E W-E-E-K.

Not that the week off is going to make the Lions a better football team because that appears to be a long work in progress.

So what happened? Poor execution and missed opportunities?

“I could make that up as an excuse,” said PSU head coach Joe Paterno. “We stunk and I did a lousy job. I thought we were ready, but we just didn’t play very well. I could make a million excuses. We had our opportunities. We just didn’t stay on our blocks, we didn’t have a good day throwing the ball, we didn’t do a great job play calling, and overall, we just did a lousy job. The kids didn’t play very well and give them credit because Illinois played a really tough football game, a solid game. They made a couple mistakes early but after that they were pretty darn good.”

While Paterno was scratching head, looking for answers, Illinois coach Ron Zook was enjoying the win.

“Obviously it was a big win for us,” Zook said. “I think we talked all week about the fact that Illinois has never won here and we had a chance to come up here and play a good football team, a well-coached football team, a great program in front of 109,000 people and do something that has never been done at the University of Illinois. Our guys got into it and did it. So I’m proud of them and once again I think it’s very important. We will enjoy this one tonight and then get ready for Michigan State next week.”

As for the bye week, it should help the Nittany Lions heal some wounds as they not only got beat up 33-13 by Illinois on the football field, they also suffered a number of injuries. Most notably among the wounded warriors were Nick Sukay, Andrew Dailey and Eric Latimore.

“I don’t know what the injuries are because there’s so many of them going on out there,” Paterno said. “Latimore, I’m not sure what it is. He was hurt a little bit going into the game. In fact, a couple weeks ago he didn’t play. So, he has been bumped a little bit, but not that badly.”

As to when the walking wounded will return, Paterno said that is a good question at this point.

“It’s up to the doctors that have got to take a look at them so I don‘t know when they will be back on the field,” he said. “I usually talk with the doctors every Sunday morning and go over the whole roster. I’ll talk to them and I’ll figure out who might be able to make it. A kid like (Jack) Crawford was practicing on Wednesday and he’s not done anything. He just goes in there, simple little play and he twists an ankle. They may even have to operate on his ankle and, you know, he’s one of our better players. But, that’s the game. You’ve got to live with it. We’ve got to live with them, we’ve got to adjust to it and we’ve got to see what we can do to overcome it.”

Struggling for consistency from the opening kickoff to the final seconds of the fourth quarter, the Lions scored all 13 of their points on or as a result of basically three plays.

Two field goals by Collin Wagner came following the recovery of a pair of “muffed” punts with former Williamsport Millionaire Jacob Fagnano and Michael Zordich doing the honors. In addition to that, there was the 80-yard TD hookup from quarterback Rob Bolden to Derek Moye that brought the Lions back into the game at 14-10 Illinois.

Following the game, Moye was asked if completing the big play was satisfying to him.

“No, not really,“ Moye said. “I felt satisfaction at the time because it made it a closer game, and we (possibly) were coming back for the win, but not when it turned out like that.”

Following the Moye explosion, the Illini bounced right back to answer with a 50-yard field to go up 17-10, but the Lions weren’t done in the opening half.

Forced to punt, the Anthony Fera kick was fumbled and recovered by Zordich on the Illinois 9. Hoping to get the tying touchdown, the Lions had to settle for a 22-yard Wagner field goal to cut the Illinois lead to 17-13.

Illinois made the most of the final couple minutes of the opening half to get another field goal to take a 20-13 lead to the locker room at the break before they scored 13 unanswered points in the second half to set the final.

Penn State safety Drew Astorino had a career day with nine tackles and a number of “forced“ plays, but unfortunately for the Lions, when that happens, most of the tackles are being made downfield. What it means is that many times it results in big gains by the running backs or a successful passing game that result in long drives.

“Yeah, it was real frustrating,” Astorino said. “We couldn’t make the big stops, especially on third down, third-and-short, and yeah, it was pretty frustrating.”

While the Illini were busy running up and down the field, the Lions could only muster five first downs through the opening three quarters, seven for the game. Another glaring statistics came in the running game for the Illini where feature back Mikel Leshoure out gained the entire Penn State ground game by a 119-65 margin.

Not only did the Illini dominate the scoreboard, they also showed a distinct advantage in time of possession as they held the ball 38:12 compared to 21:48 for PSU.

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