Penn State defeats Illinois, 10-7; Paterno becomes Division I career-wins leader

Nittany Lions Matt McGloin (helmet in hand), Gerald Hodges (6), and Malcom Willis exult after Illinois kicker Derek Dimke's 42-yard field goal attempt hit the right upright as time expired.
Nittany Lions Matt McGloin (helmet in hand), Gerald Hodges (6), and Malcom Willis exult after Illinois kicker Derek Dimke's 42-yard field goal attempt hit the right upright as time expired. (GENE J. PUSKAR / Associated Press)
Posted: October 30, 2011

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - For all its struggles, the Penn State offense frequently talks about its ability to pull together and make plays when it absolutely must, something not reflected in the Nittany Lions' statistics, but certainly in their win-loss record.

On Saturday, with snow flying all around Beaver Stadium, the Lions' lethargic offense waited until the final three minutes before it suddenly burst out of nowhere and thwarted what had been a great defensive effort by Illinois.

Matt McGloin, who had his problems all day, drove the Nittany Lions 80 yards in 10 plays. Silas Redd capped the march on a 3-yard run with 1 minute, 8 seconds remaining and gave the 21st-ranked Lions a 10-7 victory over the Fighting Illini, enabling them to close the day as the Big Ten's only unbeaten team.

Penn State (8-1 overall, 5-0 Big Ten) won its seventh straight game and gave coach Joe Paterno his 409th victory, enabling him to become the all-time career wins leader in NCAA Division I.

The Lions' finish was as unlikely as a snowstorm in October.

Prior to the winning drive, the Nittany Lions had gained 139 total yards in 59 plays, or an average of 2.4 yards per play. They didn't complete a pass in the second and third quarters, misfiring on 10 straight throws.

McGloin, who yielded to Rob Bolden in the second quarter but took every snap in the other three periods, had been 5 of 18 passing for 40 yards, struggling with the wet snow and the Illini's strong pass rush.

But suddenly, McGloin hit Derek Moye, who wasn't expected to play because of a broken bone in his left foot, for 20 yards to start the last drive, and the Lions looked sharp instead of clueless.

"I guess it's just something this team has inside of them, needing to make a play, needing to get the job done, to do what it takes to get another win," McGloin said.

"The offense really played bad all day. I don't know if it was the weather or what it was. We didn't get it going early on. But in situations like that, we're going to rise, and we're going to get it done."

McGloin went 4 of 6 on the drive for 58 yards. The biggest pass he threw, however, did not count as a play - a deep ball on fourth down in the end zone to Moye on which Illinois was penalized for pass interference.

That gave the Lions the ball on the Illinois 17, and Redd, who rushed for 137 yards on 30 carries to go over the 1,000-yard mark for the season, scored four plays later.

"Did I have any doubts? Sure, I had doubts, but it worked out," said Paterno, who received a plaque for another coaching achievement from university president Graham Spanier and athletic director Tim Curley in a brief ceremony in the interview room.

"One thing about this football team is, at times we've struggled, but there's a lot of character, and there's a lot of feeling for each other, and they're really good competitors," Paterno said. "Going back to Temple, we were getting licked. We had to make a drive in the last couple of minutes to win that one. So we've been fortunate."

Illinois mounted a last-ditch drive from its own 17 to the Penn State 25, but a 42-yard field-goal attempt by Derek Dimke to tie the game on the final snap hit the right upright.

Up to its game-winning drive, the offense frustrated the estimated 62,000 fans in attendance. They took out their wrath in the second quarter by booing Bolden, who in 14 second-quarter plays at quarterback had more fumbles (two, losing one) than completions (zero).

So it was up to the defense to - again - keep the Nittany Lions in it. The Lions forced four turnovers, with the offense getting no points from any of them. Anthony Fera kicked a 30-yard field goal midway through the fourth quarter after a blocked punt by Brad Bars at the Illinois 31.

But the defense, which allowed only a third-quarter touchdown pass from Nathan Scheelhaase to wide receiver Spencer Harris, stayed positive.

"It was frustrating," defensive tackle Devon Still said. "But I knew our offense was going to come through for us. They always manage to put points on the board somehow, in some way. Whether it's a lot or a little, it's enough for us to win the game."

In this case, just enough.

"We knew it was going to happen," McGloin said. "It was a little later than I would have liked, but it did happen for us, and we're glad to get one going into the bye week."


Contact staff writer Joe Juliano at 215-854-4494 or jjuliano@phillynews.com.

 

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