PSU-Illinois highlights, lowlights

UNIVERSITY PARK – Following are the highlights and lowlights from Penn State’s 24-17 overtime victory over Illinois on Saturday at Beaver Stadium:

Play of the game: On third-and-11 in overtime, Christian Hackenberg hit tight end Kyle Carter for a 15-yard touchdown pass.

Offensive player of the game: Lion tailback Bill Belton rushed 36 times for 201 yards – both career highs – and one touchdown.

Defensive player of the game: PSU cornerback Jordan Lucas made seven tackles, all unassisted, broke up two passes and intercepted another.

Most telling statistic: A total of 20 penalties were assessed for 165 yards.

Hidden statistic: The Nittany Lions are now 3-0 in overtime under Bill O’Brien.

Best run: Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase eluded pressure and scrambled 12 yards on the touchdown drive in which Illinois took a 17-14 lead in the fourth quarter.

Best pass: See play of the game.

Worst pass: Scheelhaase threw into double-coverage, in the end zone, on Illinois’ first play of overtime. Adrian Amos tipped the pass, which was picked off by Ryan Keiser, ending the game.

Best catch: Allen Robinson went up to snag a 39-yard pass to the Illinois 5 – almost the same spot as his gem to help beat Michigan – with four minutes left in regulation.

Catch it, will ya: Robinson had a ball stripped from him on a second-quarter end-zone fade by Eaton Spence. Illinois LB Houston Bates dropped a pick-6, right in his hands, at midfield with nothing but green in front of him late in the first quarter that could have tied the game 7-7.

Hold it, won’t ya: Down 17-14, Belton fumbled at the Illinois 2 with 3:23 left, but the Lions’ defense forced a punt, which set up Sam Ficken’s game-tying field goal.

Best block: Jesse James helped spring Belton’s 16-yarder – the longest run from scrimmage by either team – in the third quarter.

Best tackle: Scheelhaase was sacked by Anthony Zettel with 30 seconds left in the game, the last play of regulation.

Best hit: Lucas drilled Illini receiver Martize Barr at the sideline in the second quarter, causing an incompletion that would have been a first down and forcing a punt.

Best kick(s): Alex Butterworth got a 40-yarder punt to die at the Illinois 2 late in the second quarter. Given recent struggles – just 4-for-8 in the last four games – also credit Ficken for his 35-yard field goal with 41 seconds left that forced overtime.

Worst kick: Though Illini punter Justin DuVernois offered some choices, Ficken pushed a 37-yard field goal to the right in the second quarter.

Best call: Illinois took a 17-14 lead on a 7-yard TD/screen from Scheelhaase to Josh Ferguson, that initially looked like an option, with 5:30 left in regulation. The Illini scored their first TD on a similar play in the third quarter, drawing within 14-10.

Worst call: Illinois, pinned at its 2 and the Lions out of timeouts, inexplicably decided to pass out the end zone (incomplete) and stopped its own clock with 3:23 left in regulation.

Worst penalty: Wow. Plenty of choices both ways. Let’s take the unsportsmanlike penalty against Nit center Ty Howle at the Illinois 27 that pushed the Nits out of field-goal range in the second quarter.

Best effort: On second-and-goal from the Illini 9, Hackenberg tucked and scrambled up the middle, diving into the end zone for a 14-0 lead. He took a hard hit and fumbled but after he had crossed the plane.

Unsung hero: PSU linebacker Mike Hull made a career-high 13 tackles.