Category Archives: Illinois Fighting Illini

Nittany Lions Stumble

 

Homecoming wasn't exactly a welcoming occasion for the Nittany Lions. (Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

 

The Nittany Lions may be in for a long season.

Penn State was dominated by an inexperienced Illinois football team. They fell 33-13 on the road in the second Big Ten contest of the season.

The Penn State offense was stifled all day by the Fighting Illini. Illinois only had one three-and-out throughout the entire game.

On their first offensive possession, the Nittany Lions were able to drive down the field. Colin Wagner booted a 28-yard field goal to give Penn State an early 3-0 lead.

The Fighting Illini were able to answer the Nittany Lions’ field goal with a touchdown of their own. Nathan Scheelhaase connected with receiver A.J. Jenkins for an 18-yard touchdown to give Illinois the lead.

The Illini were controlling the play for the majority of the first half. Robert Bolden was picked off by linebacker Nate Bussey and Bussey took the interception in for a touchdown making the score 14-3.

Bolden and company were able to answer in a huge way. The Illini kickoff was sent into the end zone for a touchback.

Bolden then throw an 80-yard touchdown pass to Derek Moye to put the Nittany Lions right back into the game.

Every time Penn State looked like they were cutting into lead, the Fighting Illini answered back with points of their own.

This time kicker Derek Dimke kicked a 50-yard field goal to make it a 17-10 game.

The teams traded a pair of field goals before halftime. The Nittany Lions found themselves down 20-13 at the half.

The second half was even worse than the first half. The Nittany Lions were held scoreless and gave up 13 points on defense.

The Fighting Illini added a trick-play touchdown and two field goals to win the game 33-13.

Penn State now stands at 3-3 at the midway point of the season. They have a bye week next week before travelling to Minnesota to face a very bad Golden Gophers team.

The Nittany Lions have a lot to work on and the inconsistency of the offense is among the top concern.

The inability to put points on the board is a major problem. Bolden is having a typical freshman season and is going through tremendous growing pains.

Penn State really needs to turn its play around if they want a bowl bid this season.

NCAA Week Six: Illinois vs Penn State

 

The offense has to step it up in the red zone and put points on the board! (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

 

PSU: 2010 record – 3-2
ILL: 2010 record – 2-2
Spread: Penn State by 8
Where: Beaver Stadium
When: Saturday, 12:00 PM on ESPN2
Last time met: Oct. 3, 2009 – Evan Royster and Stephon Green combined for 225 rushing yards as the Nittany Lions rolled 35-17 on the road.

Opposing player to watch – RB Mikel LeShoure: LeShoure is enjoying a nice season so far averaging 6.2 yards per carry. He ranks second in the Big Ten averaging 119.5 rushing yards per game. LeShoure also ranks 13th in the country in rushing yards. He didn’t play against Penn State in last year’s contest. Robinson has carried for over 100 yards in three out of four Illinois games this season.  He is a decent size back who is getting more carries this season. The Nittany Lions sometimes struggle stopping the run so LeShoure could be a huge asset for the Illini.

Offenses: Scoring points continues to be a huge problem for the Nittany Lions. They could only manage three measly points against the Hawkeyes last week. Once again they struggled in the red zone. Penn State went three-and-out on their first three drives and weren’t able to gather any rhythm. Part it could be part of the fact that the Nittany Lions didn’t run the ball hardly. Evan Royster only had ten carries and he really needs to be a part of the offense for Penn State to be effective. Bolden struggled going 20-for-37 with an interception and was constantly stifled by the Hawkeye defense. There were a few small bright spots for the Nittany Lions in the receiving core. Brent Brackett hauled in a huge 49 yard pass from Bolden towards the end of the first-half. Devon Smith also continued to show how quick and effective he can be. Smith caught five passes for 58 yards and looks like he could be a great asset to the Penn State receiving core. Bolden just simply needs to put the ball into the end zone. He has shown flashes of brillance but just seems to struggle once he enters the red zone. Maybe it’s the pressure getting to the freshman but he needs to improve in the red zone if Penn State is going to be successful.

The Illinois Fighting Illini has averaged 332 yards of offense per game this season which is last in the Big Ten. In their first four games this season, the Fighting Illini have scored only 89 points. Nathan Scheelhaase has struggled so far this season. He is 43-for-79 for 489 yards and only three touchdowns. Scheelhaase has also thrown four interceptions. Illinois hasn’t exactly played against elite competition. Their two wins were against Northern Illinois and Southern Illinois. This game will certainly be a challenging one for them. The Fighting Illini will be depending heavily on LeShoure in the running game if they want to pull the upset. Their top two receivers have only combined for 29 catches on the season. A.J. Jenkins and Jarred Fayson have combined for 335 yards in four games. The next receiver only has four catches, so Illinois just doesn’t seem to be having much success this season.

Advantage: Penn State has a significant advantage. Bolden has struggled but overall he hasn’t looked bad. There are just more playmakers in the Nittany Lions’ offense and the Illini won’t be able to put enough points on the board.

Defenses: The Nittany Lions’ defense struggled last week on the road in Iowa. They gave up ten points before anyone could even blink. They had problems with experience signal caller Ricky Stanzi. The Penn State defense should have a nice rebound game against the Fighting Illini. Illinois doesn’t have a pass heavy offense and should be looking to run the ball quite often. The Nittany Lions front seven will have to stack the box and try to shut down LeShoure. If they can force the Illini to start throwing the ball, it could pose an advantage for Penn State. Defensive back Nick Sukay is enjoying a great 2010 season so far leading the team with three interceptions. The Nittany Lions need to step up the pass rush. They only sacked Stanzi once last week and the lack of pressure was one of the main reasons they fell on the road.

The Fighting Illini defense does possess a solid pass rush. They are tied for third in sacks in the Big Ten with ten. However they are tenth in the Big Ten in interceptions with only two. Junior safety Trulon Henry has both of the Fighting Illini interceptions on the year. Middle linebacker Martez Wilson leads the charge on defense. Wilson missed 11 games last season and is one of Ron Zook’s most prized recruits since coming to Illinois. Wilson was one of the few bright spots in Illinois’ loss against Ohio State, in which he had nine tackles and a sack. Wilson ranks in the top five in the Big Ten averaging 8.5 tackles per game. The Penn State offense will have to know where Wilson is at all times on Saturday. Defensive tackle Corey Liuget will also bring a physical edge to the Fighting Illini defense.

Advantage: Penn State has the slight edge with a talented secondary that thrives on takeaways. Stopping the running game will be very key for the Nittany Lions.

Injury Report:
Penn State: OT Lou Eliades (Torn ACL) *Out for the season, LB Gerald Hodges (Leg injury) *Out for at least two more weeks, TE Garry Gilliam (torn ACL) *Out for the season
Illinois: S Supo Sanni (ruptured Achilles tendon) *Out for the season

Prediction: Penn State handles Illinois 24-10 with Bolden having a solid day through the air.

Hawkeyes Roll At Home

Another devastating loss at the hands of the Hawkeyes. Robinson gave the Nittany Lions fits on this night. (Charlie Neibergall/AP)

The Iowa Hawkeyes have just had Penn State’s number the last few years. 

The Nittany Lions went into Kinnick Stadium and were dominated once again by the Hawkeyes 24-3 to open up Big Ten conference play.

Quarterback Ricky Stanzi was very efficient for the Hawkeyes, going  16-for-22 for 227 yards and a touchdown pass.  He added a touchdown run of his own as well.

Iowa dominated this game from the start.  The Hawkeyes marched down the field on the opening possession and notched a 20 yard field goal courtesy of Michael Meyer, who replaced the injured Dan Murray.

Running back Adam Robinson rushed for 95 yards in the game and was very tough to bring down.  Robinson added 21 yards on just the first drive alone.

The Nittany Lions went three-and-out on their first three drives and found themselves in an early hole.  Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi threw a nine-yard touchdown pass to Derrell Johnson-Koulianos in the back of the end zone to give the Hawkeyes a 10-0 lead.

Johnson-Koulianos and Marvin McNutt combined for nine catches for 157 yards and a touchdown.  They were clearly Stanzi’s favorite targets all night.

The first half was downright awful for the Nittany Lions on both sides of the ball.  The offense couldn’t sustain long drives and the defense couldn’t get off the field.

With 1:52 remaining in the first half, Ricky Stanzi rushed for a one-yard touchdown to give the Hawkeyes a commanding 17-0 advantage. 

Freshmen quarterback Robert Bolden was able to run the two-minute drill and drives the Nittany Lions down the field late in the first half.  The drive ended with a 25 yard field goal by Colin Wagner.  It was set up by a 49 yard completion to receiver Brent Brackett in which he snuck behind the secondary.

Penn State was 0-for-5 on third down conversions in the first half.  Bolden couldn’t pick up first downs and that caused the Nittany Lions to be down such a large margin at halftime.

The second half didn’t turn out any better for the Nittany Lions.  Defensive back Shaun Prater added a 33 yard interception return for a touchdown to make the score 24-3.

The inept offense was the main concern throughout the game for the Nittany Lions.  Bolden could not move his troops down the field at all aside from the drive at the end of the first half.

It was not a good start to Big Ten conference play.  Penn State will face Illinois at Beaver Stadium next week.  Illinois may be 2-2 but they hung tough with Ohio State this week only losing by 11 points. 

The Nittany Lions are really suffering without an experienced quarterback.  But maybe Bolden can learn and turn into a great signal caller in a few years and led Penn State to the promised land.