In a game that saw over 1200 total yds, 899 passing yds, and 5 ties between the 2 teams, the defense that had given up over 200 yds on the ground and over 400 total yds in the first 26:56 of the game stood tall and forced a 3 and out to give the Illini the chance they hoped for. They did not disappoint as Sophomore sensation Nathan Scheelhaase hit Ryan Lankford on a post route to secure the victory with :25 left in the game. Standing at 5-0, and having the reserve to come from behind the past 2 weeks, is forcing the pollsters to give them serious top 25 consideration. This game was a back and forth battle to say the least, with Penn St going up by 7 and then alternating TD’s for the next 3 qtrs. If you had looked at the stats through the 3rd qtr, you would have sworn that Penn St should have been up by big margin instead of it being tied up at 21. Penn St’s RB Redd ran roughshod over the Illini defense, with the OL opening up canyons for him to run through. Redd set up every touchdown the Cougars scored with a long run, tallying 224 yds on only 16 carries for a Heisman candidate worthy average of 14 YPC and rushing for 3 TD’s, including one from 68 yds out. The Penn St QB wasn’t bad on the day going 16/32 for 192 yds and 2 TD’s with no picks. The leading receiver for Penn St was Kersey snatching 4 passes for 114 yards and 1 TD. If there was one place the Penn St offense struggled it would be 3rd down conversion, gaining a first down on only 2 out of 11 tries. All of it was for naught though, because as much as the defense struggled, the offensive was just as impressive for Illinois. Nathan Scheelhaase was obviously playing with pride after the embarrassing, close, come from behind 3 point win last week over cellar dweller LaTech. He passed for 388 yds, with 5 TD’s and 0 interceptions on 15/23 passing, he did have a lost fumble on the first series for Illinois, but quickly made up for it by tossing touchdowns all over the field. Scheelhaase has been unbelievably impressive this season for only being a Sophomore, passing for 1735 yds on 85 of 149 passes for a 57% completion rate and a 15:6 TD to INT ratio. Another pleasant surprise has been the tough running of Sophomore Donovonn Young. Although only rushing for 3.8 YPC, he is averaging a tad over 90 yards a game. Today, even with fumbling for the first time this season, he was integral to taking some of the pressure off the passing game by putting up 107 yds. Most of those yards came in some of the most crucial times when the Cougar defense was keying in on the passing game. In this game though, there was no player more unstoppable for the Illinois offense than JR receiver Ryan Lankford. Lankford scored on catches of 80 and 60 in the 2nd qtr, when the Illini put up 21 to tie the game up before halftime, and the game wining 80 yard TD to seal up the last minute comeback. He finished the game with 4 catches, 226 yds, and 3 TD’s. He currently leads the team with 561 yds and 7 TD’s. Junior TE Evan Wilson turned in another solid performance with 81 yds on 5 catches, 2 of those going for touchdowns. He is currently the team leader with 25 catches on the year. Although not the type of game Illinois wanted to have after the scare from LaTech last week, at least Illinois will come out of the hardest 3 game stretch on their schedule this year at the worst 1-2 with tough road trips coming up to 2 top 10 teams in Wisconsin and Michigan the next 2 weeks. With no injuries, the offense humming along the coaches and team are looking forward to the challenge. We caught up with Coach Clinton after the game to hear his thoughts. ”We played a good game against a good team today. Our offense, outside of the 2 very uncharacteristic fumbles, operated at a level that we rarely achieve, even in practice. I can’t say enough about QB Nathan Scheelhaase. This kid, this kid is a special player, and can take this team as far as he wants to. I think I will be taking that green jersey off him more in practice so he can get used to being hit when scrambling, but overall, I’m so proud of this kid. He’s worked hard, and I feel very good about our QB situation for the next couple years. What do you say about a performance like Ryan Lankford turned in today? 4 touches and 3 of them are game changers. Any other game a player catches a 60 yd TD and 2 80 yarders , you would think that the team would have run away, but not this time. He fought for those TD’s. He and Nathan have a rhythm and when Nathan saw the coverage the defense was playing, he had no choice but to audible into a play to get Ryan the ball deep. We do have work on defense to do. There is no reason why Herschel Walker should get 200 yards on my defense. EVER. We have a lot of work to do, especially with the 2 teams we have coming on the schedule the next couple of weeks. We have to get some of those things corrected or it’s going to be a long and mean 14 days, but I think we are not only up for it, but looking forward to the challenge and seeing where our football team really is."