Snowballs flew toward the field at Beaver Stadium in celebration after Illinois kicker Derek Dimke’s field goal attempt to tie the game at 10-10 hit the right upright as time expired, giving Penn State (8-1, 5-0 Big Ten)a 10-7 win over the Illini (6-2, 2-3 Big Ten) in a snowy Happy Valley.
The missed kick sent the Illini home and another game back of the Lions in the Leaders Division of the Big Ten. Penn State holds sole possession of first place in the conference heading into next week’s bye before they begin a tough three game stretch to close out the regular season with games against Nebraska and on the road to face Ohio State and Wisconsin.
The frantic finish overshadowed another milestone for Penn State’s legendary head coach Joe Paterno-who won his 409th game-the most in Division I history. He tied Grambling’s Eddie Robinson at 408 last week at Northwestern and passed him with the Lions’ come from behind win versus the Illini.
Penn State used a 10-point fourth-quarter to get the job done for its head coach for the 409th time in his career. The rally started with a 30-yard field goal from kicker Anthony Fera with 7 minutes left on the clock. Then with a minute left Silas Redd, who carried 30 times for 137 yards, plunged over the goal line to send the Lions ahead on the scoreboard 10-7. The drive was aided by a fourth-down pass interference call on Illinois. The Illini were led down the field by quarterback Nathan Sheelhasse following the Redd score to the Penn State 25, where Dimke’s kick rang off the upright just as time expired.
It was fitting that Redd scored the go-ahead touchdown in a game where he posted his fifth-straight 100 yard rushing game. Redd is having a breakout sophomore campaign, he went over 1,000 yards rushing on Saturday and was added the the Maxwell Award watch list earlier in the week. For my money, Redd is the best back to come through Happy Valley since Larry Johnson, no disrespect to other Lions backs, but this guy is a flat-out star.
It was another ho-hum performance from the Big Ten’s best defense, which held quarterback Nathan Sheelhasse in check this time around after he ran wild over the Lions defense just a year ago. In a sloppy affair, the Lions and Illini combined for 7 turnovers, including fumbles galore. The Illini outgained the Lions 286 to 209, but failed to capitalize on turnovers.
Game Ball (s):
- Silas Redd, RB, Penn State: This guy should be in New York for the Heisman Trophy presentation, the numbers don’t lie, he’s the main cog in the Lion offense and has been all season long. (1,006 yards, 7 Td’s)
- Joe Paterno, Penn State: The records just keep on coming for the soon-to-be 85-year-old. He’s now the winningest coach in DI history with 409 wins, we’re simply running out of adjectives for JoePa.
- The Lions get a much needed bye week this Saturday as they’ll begin a tough stretch to end the season with games against Nebraska at home and then they’ll hit the road at Ohio State and Wisconsin to end the regular season.
- Next game: Nov. 12 vs. Nebraska