CHAMPAIGN, IL, October 22—The Nittany Lions (7-1, 4-1 Big Ten) spoiled the homecoming party for the Fighting Illini (2-5, 0-4), sending 52,000 people home early to watch the White Sox as the Lions easily prevailed in a 63-10 rout. That was the final score, but it really wasn’t that close. If the NCAA weren’t so busy worrying about political correctness, its rules committee might have to come up with a mercy killing provision to end brutal assaults like this early to save money on stadium lighting.
I will give the Illini credit. Their initial 56-yard scoring drive, conducted in no-huddle fashion, had the Penn State defense back on its heels. Head Coach Joe Paterno admitted that his defenders were not ready for the hurry-up. At the end of that drive, a penalty forced Illinois into a field goal situation. The kick was good, and that was it for scoring by the Illini until garbage time in the fourth quarter.
After that initial Illinois drive, what followed was a rather decisive run of 63 unanswered points by the Nittany Lions. Michael Robinson was responsible for six touchdowns—four passing and two running—before he was pulled at 1:24 of the second quarter. He spent the rest of the game grinning while keeping his hands warm in his quarterback’s muff on the bench.
The Illinois punt coverage team—and they did punt more than a few times—was so awful that it made Calvin Lowry look like the Return of Eddie Drummond. His “moves” actually looked good and he seemed slipperier than ever, as he rang up seven returns for an average of 18.1 yards a pop.
Illinois punter Steve Weatherford deserves a ton of credit, too. His nine punts averaged 50.2 yards.
Austin Scott finally got some game time, as did a lot of other second, third, and ninth-stringers. Scott wound up with 14 carries for 57 yards. With Tony Hunt’s work having been done early, other running backs such as Rodney Kinlaw got a chance to play. I think I even saw the equipment girl in the backfield running interference for Matt Hahn in the second half.
The defense did its share of scoring, too, which is pretty funny because they weren’t on the field long enough to have had many opportunities. At 10:57 of the second quarter, Tim Shaw knocked the ball loose. Dan Connor ran it in 18 yards for the score. Later in the game, in the third quarter, when the sparkling clean, white jerseys were on the field, Nolan McCready intercepted an errant pass and ran it back 76 yards for a touchdown. Nolan who?
Things just weren’t going the Illini way. The frustration became apparent late in the second quarter when on a punt return, Anwar Phillips’ helmet took a couple of stinging blows from noted Illinois pugilist Derrick McPherson. It always amazes me that guys are willing to punch a hard plastic helmet. A Three Stooges forked fingers to the eyeballs approach would be much better, unless the opponent is wearing one of those plastic face shields. In this case, however, freshman McPherson delivered a few haymakers to the helmet for no apparent reason other than he was being blocked. The Roy Jones, Jr. act precipitated his ejection from the game after the play concluded with Bad Boy Derrick’s being only one of the two personal fouls on this punt return. Lowry’s 31-yard return, coupled with the two penalties gave the Nittany Lions offense primo field position at the Illinois 28.
It was at this point that Anthony Morelli came in to lead the Lions offense for the rest of the game. In that drive, Morelli’s two passes to Lydell Sargeant, one incomplete and the other a 23-yard reception to set up a touchdown, were the only passes he would throw in the game. The Paterno ground game was then invoked.
The 56 points scored by Penn State in the first half broke a school record. The previous high was 55 points scored against Fordham in the 1947 season.
The win was number 350 for JoePa. He didn’t seem to know or care that this was the case.
Big Ten Remains Muddled
As we wind down to the three remaining games, the Big Ten is still up in the air. Penn State and Wisconsin are tied atop the conference with 4-1 conference records. Northwestern and Ohio State are contenders, too, each having one conference loss. It sure looks like the Badgers are wanting to give their departing coach, Barry Alvarez, a conference title as a going away present. How big is that November 5 game at Beaver Stadium looking now? The Big Ten might not be decided until rivalry weekend this year, if even then!
The unranked Purdue Boilermakers (2-5, 0-4) were expected by many pundits to run the table in the Big Ten this year because neither Ohio State nor Michigan were on their schedule this year. Well, guess what? They didn’t. Having been beaten by Minnesota, Iowa, Northwestern, and Wisconsin, the Boilermakers limp into Beaver Stadium on Hallowe’en weekend ranked 115th in total defense. They have given up over 470 yards per game. However, any Joe Tiller team is going to be dangerous when it has the ball. Purdue ranks 20th in the nation in total offense. The Nittany Lions will have scoring opportunities, and if the defense stays on its toes, this should be a nice homecoming win.