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Penn State vs Illinois Homecoming Preview

Posted by Joe Chuba on 10/05 at 09:16 AM

Steve Jones analyses Penn State’s loss to Iowa and previews the homecoming match-up with Illinois.

So much is made of third down in a football game because that is the down that either keeps a drive alive or kills it.  The process to set up third down is just as important.  Coaches call it staying on schedule.  First down sets it all up.  Saturday night in Iowa City first down meant a lot.  Iowa was just two of ten on third down but on first down they had 174 yards.  Ricky Stanzi was seven for nine passing on first down for 130 yards.  Penn State which had been very strong on first down, stayed off schedule most of the night.  Coming into the game Penn State had averaged 6.5 yards per play on first down and 53% of Penn State’s offense for the season was on first down.  While Iowa had 174 yards on first down, Penn State could only manage 65 yards.  The Nittany Lions ran eight times for 17 yards and were 7 of 20 passing for 48 yards.  All of that set up second and longs and third and longs. 
Once again Penn State did not get into the pace of the game in the first half on the road.  In the second half they played toe to toe if not a little better than Iowa but they were playing from behind and could not knock one in to make it a one score game. 
A lot of freshmen are now playing.  Obviously Rob Bolden at quarterback and Silas Redd at tailback were already playing.  Kevin Haplea will now have to take over at tight end with Garry Gilliam out for the year.  Linebackers Kiarri Fortt and Glen Carson along with tackle Daquan Jones are now deeply into the mix on defense.  Injuries have made a young team even younger. 
Now back to work for the homecoming game against Illinois… The Illini are also a young team.  Ron Zook made some dramatic changes to his staff in the off season.  He changed both coordinators and it seems to have made a difference.  Illinois has been strong in the first half but they have struggled in the second half of games. 
Illinois has been strong on the ground so far led by Mikel Leshoure who has 478 yards and averages 6.2 yards per carry.  Overall Illinois averages 201 yards rushing per game. 
The ground game is helped by quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase.  He is second on the team in rushing with 216 yards.  In the air he has been pretty good.  He has hit 54% of his passes with three touchdowns but four interceptions.  There is no doubt where he likes to go with the ball.  Jarred Fayson has 16 catches and A.J. Jenkins has 13 catches.  After that no one else has more than four.
The defense has certainly improved.  The return of Martez Wilson from injuries has made a big difference.  Linebacker Ian Thomas is also off to a strong start.  Nate Bussey played well Saturday against Ohio State especially in blitz packages.  Illinois has forced six turnovers all season but only have two interceptions. 
Special teams are good but punter Anthony Santella has been outstanding.  He is averaging 48.3 yards per kick with nine kicks over 50 yards and six kicks knocked inside the 20 yard line. 
It is homecoming and more importantly bounce back time for the Nittany Lions. 


Game notes:
This is the 91st Homecoming game at Penn State
The Nittany Lions are 39-5 in such games under Joe Paterno (2-0 vs Illinois)
Penn State leads the series with Illinois 14-3, and have not lost at home (6-0)
Last season the Nittany Lions won 35-17

{name} Author: Joe Chuba
Bio: Sports Producer for WPSU-TV

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