Illinois stuns No. 7 Penn State 20-18 in NCAA’s first 9OT game

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
1 Comment

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – Casey Washington caught a 2-point conversion pass from Brandon Peters to end the first nine-overtime game in NCAA history and lift Illinois over No. 7 Penn State 20-18 Saturday.

The teams were tied at 10 after regulation, exchanged field goals in the first two overtimes, then began to alternate 2-point attempts in the third OT as part of a format tweaked ahead of the 2021 season.

Neither team converted until the eighth overtime, when Isaiah Williams ran one in to put Illinois up 18-16. Penn State’s Noah Cain kept the game alive with a 2-point run of his own.

In the ninth OT, Sean Clifford‘s pass to Parker Washington was broken up by linebacker Khalan Tolson. Peters then found Washington near the back of the end zone for the winning completion.

The 2-point conversion shootout started in 2019, the season after LSU and Texas A&M played a seven overtime game that left both teams badly beaten up. The rule was tweaked this year, with the 2-point conversion possessions beginning with the third overtime instead of the fifth.

Chase Brown and Josh McCray combined for 365 rushing yards and a touchdown and James McCourt kicked three field goals, including 39- and 32-yarders in overtime, to snap Illinois’ three-game skid to Penn State.

The two bullish backs blasted through wide-open holes and flanked Penn State’s defense again and again on a soggy day at Beaver Stadium. The Illini (3-5, 2-3 Big Ten) outgained the Nittany Lions 370 yards to 207 in regulation and battled back from an early 10-0 deficit.

Peters, normally Illinois’ starter, came off the bench when Artur Sitkowski hurt his left hand in the sixth overtime period.

KeAndre Lambert-Smith caught a touchdown pass and Jordan Stout added three field goals for the Nittany Lions (5-2, 2-2) who ran for just 62 yards and struggled to protect ailing Clifford.

Led by Brown’s 229 total yards, the Illini tied it 10-10 early in the fourth quarter with a 37-yard field goal from McCourt.

A sloppy fourth quarter gave way to overtime where McCourt and Stout matched each other on field goals before a string of goal line standoffs pushed the game into unprecedented territory.

Clifford suffered an unspecified injury on Oct. 9 at Iowa and didn’t finish that game. He handled a light workload early Saturday.

The third-year starter attempted just nine passes in the first half and was slow to get to his feet after taking a sack on his first series. After two lackluster possessions and just 15 yards on seven plays, Clifford was able to rally his offense on its third try.

Working quickly, Clifford completed two straight passes downfield to top target Jahan Dotson, then fired a bullet to slanting KeAndre Lambert-Smith for a 42-yard touchdown.

The Nittany Lions’ defense helped out moments later when linebacker Brandon Smith blasted Sitkowski. The backup quarterback fumbled to D'Von Ellies.

Penn State settled for a 35-yard field goal from Stout when the offense stalled at the Illinois 17. Stout’s kick made it 10-0 with 11:42 to play in the second quarter.

Illinois’ rushing offense, which racked up 165 yards in the first half, picked up the pace.

Led by Brown and McCray, the Illini ran the ball 12 times on a 15-play drive that ended when Brown bulled into the end zone from a yard out and cut Penn State’s lead to 10-7.

Illinois continued to control the pace with its running game, and turned a 16-play, 70-yard drive into a tying field goal from McCourt.

THE TAKEAWAY

Illinois: The Illini were in it from the opening whistle. They used seven-man fronts and the hard-charging abilities of McCray and Brown to outmuscle Penn State’s defense nearly all day.

Penn State: Getting Clifford back perhaps sooner than they thought was great news for the Nittany Lions, especially since their running game is virtually nonexistent and they’ll need all the offense they can get with games at No. 5 Ohio State, vs. No. 6 Michigan and at No. 9 Michigan State coming up.

UP NEXT

Illinois: Hosts Rutgers.

Penn State: Visits No. 5 Ohio State.

Florida shakes up secondary after dismal game at Tennessee

florida gators
Donald Page/Getty Images
0 Comments

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida coach Billy Napier is shaking up his secondary after the Gators allowed 349 yards passing – including 247 of those on eight plays – in a loss at Tennessee.

Safety Trey Dean, a fifth-year senior who has started 32 games and played in 54, is out with what Florida is calling a “lower leg injury.” But no one would be surprised if Napier was quietly benching Dean after he made two mental errors against the Volunteers that resulted in 70- and 45-yard gains and set up touchdowns.

Freshman Kamari Wilson will replace Dean and make his first college start Sunday against Eastern Washington.

Cornerback Jaydon Hill will join Wilson in the starting lineup. Hill, a third-year sophomore, will make his first start since 2020. He missed the 2021 season with a torn knee ligament. He impressed Napier and his new staff in the spring but sat out preseason camp with another knee injury.

Hill will replace sophomore Avery Helm, who also struggled against the Vols.

“You talk about what he’s been through from an injury perspective,” Napier said following practice Wednesday. “Jaydon was one of the better players that we had on our team in spring practice. I was very impressed . It’s no surprise to me. He showed pretty quickly here that he’s very capable. I’m excited to watch him play.”

Georgia transfer Jalen Kimber, a former five-star recruit, is now listed as a third-team cornerback. Kimber played just 11 snaps in Knoxville a week after he returned an interception for a touchdown in a 31-28 win against South Florida.

“I like to say we try to eliminate the bad football,” Napier said. “Talking about mental errors, misalignments, poor communication, bad fundamentals and techniques, bad decision-making within the play. … We have a laundry list of things that we need to eliminate each week.

“Last week’s game, I thought we were really close, but there’s 12 or 15 plays in the game where Florida is beating Florida. We’ve got a smart group here. I think they’re very aware of what the issues are, and I think they’re working hard to address those issues.”

Pac-12 looking stronger at top after early-season losses

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

When Oregon got throttled by top-ranked Georgia and Utah lost at Florida, it appeared as though the Pac-12 was headed toward another College Football Playoff miss.

One week into the season and two of the conference’s top teams had already failed big early tests.

Flash forward three weeks and it seems the Pac-12 might be in good shape after all.

The Ducks and Utes bounced back with big wins and the top of the conference looks strong, with four teams in the top 15 for the first time since 2016.

It’s still early, but the Pac-12 is putting itself in position to get a team through to the CFP for the first time since Washington in 2016-17.

A look at how the top of the Pac-12 is stacking up headed into the first weekend of October:

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

The No. 6 Trojans (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) seem to have quickly returned to glory in their first season under Lincoln Riley. The former Oklahoma coach brought quarterback Caleb Williams with him to Southern California and they have thrived through the first four games.

Williams has thrown for 1,054 yards and nine touchdowns, adding 100 yards and two more scores rushing. USC’s defense has been opportunistic, leading the nation with 11 interceptions while tied for the lead with 14 takeaways.

The Trojans survived a scare against scrappy Oregon State over the weekend to start 4-0 for the first time since 2012. USC has to play at Utah on Oct. 15, but avoids Washington and Oregon this season.

UTAH

The 12th-ranked Utes opened the season with a tough road loss at The Swamp in Florida, but have won three straight lopsided games.

Outside of a costly interception late against the Gators, quarterback Cam Rising has been sharp, throwing for 954 yards and 10 TDs. Utah (3-1, 1-0) has a physical defense and is third in the FBS, allowing 132.8 yards passing per game.

The Utes also have a veteran team that won the Pac-12 championship last season. The bad news: tight end Brant Kuithe, their leading receiver, is out for the season with a knee injury.

Utah plays Oregon State this weekend and has tough games against USC and Oregon still on the schedule.

OREGON

The Ducks’ playoff chances took an immediate hit with a 49-3 loss to reigning national champion Georgia in their opener.

No. 13 Oregon (3-1, 1-0) bounced back with a decisive win over a good BYU team and outlasted previously undefeated Washington State 44-41 last week.

The Ducks were no match for the Bulldogs in any aspect – few teams are – but have averaged 51.6 points the past three games. Oregon’s biggest weakness is its pass defense. The Ducks are allowing 72.5% of passes to be completed, third worst in the country.

Oregon’s biggest tests left in the season will come in back to back games against Washington and Utah.

WASHINGTON

The Huskies have made a quick turnaround in their first season under coach Kalen DeBoer.

Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. has been superb now that he’s healthy, throwing for an FBS-best 1,388 yards and 12 TDs with one interception. No. 15 Washington (4-0, 1-0) picked up a solid home win against Michigan State and has 15 sacks this season, including eight against Stanford last week.

The Huskies play their first road game at undefeated UCLA on Saturday and have to face Oregon on Nov. 12.

UCLA

After winning at Colorado for the first time since 2014 last Saturday, the Bruins (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) have their longest winning streak since winning the first eight games in 2005.

UCLA had a hard time getting past South Alabama and opened its Pac-12 schedule with a win against the struggling Buffaloes.

The Bruins will find out how good they are over the next three weeks, a brutal stretch that includes home games against Washington and Utah before heading to Eugene to play the Ducks on Oct. 22.