Illinois gave No. 7 Penn State its first loss of the season, shocking the team with a buzzer-beating three-pointer at home. The game was one of many high-profile matchups in Day 1 of Big Ten media days, where coaches and players were discussing each other’s rosters for weeks beforehand but now face off before heading into conference play this fall.
Illinois stunned No. 7 Penn State in the NCAA’s first 9-7 game since 2009 and became bowl eligible for the first time since 2010. The Illini now control their own destiny as they play at home against Northwestern next week, with a winning record on their side of things against that matchup.
The “penn state white out” is an event that has taken place in college basketball for years. Illinois stunned the No. 7 Penn State Nittany Lions with a last second shot to win their first NCAA tournament game.
STATE COLLEGE, Pennsylvania — Illinois survived a historic nine overtimes, surviving a botched trick play by Penn State, losing its quarterback and a strong running back to injury, and failing to gain more than three meager yards time after time.
Casey Washington had no idea what to do when he eventually caught the game-winning grab on Saturday.
He said, “I truly sobbed.” “It was simply a fantastic feeling.”
The Illini won the NCAA’s first nine-overtime game, defeating the seventh-ranked Nittany Lions 20-18 on Washington’s 2-point conversion grab from Brandon Peters to stop a series of goal-line stalemates under the newly modified overtime rules in college football.
After a 10-10 stalemate at the end of regulation, the teams traded field goals in the first two overtimes before switching to one-and-done drives from the 3-yard line in the third overtime as part of a format change for the 2021 season.
Penn State attempted to win it on the spot with a version of the famous “Philly Special” play utilized by the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LII. On the trick play, quarterback Sean Clifford, who is still recovering from an undisclosed injury suffered against Iowa on Oct. 9, was wide open near the goal line, but tight end Tyler Warren’s throw attempt was incomplete.
On Illinois’ first attempt, quarterback Artur Sitkowski missed a receiver, and both defenses held fast for the four overtimes that followed. In the seventh overtime, Illinois tried three more passes that went incomplete, and Josh McCray was stopped at the goal line.
Clifford then missed his next two 2-point attempts, and Noah Cain was stuffed to open the fifth and seventh overtimes, respectively.
In the sixth overtime, Sitkowski, the backup, was injured and replaced by Peters, the usual starter who had been sidelined by injury. After being yanked down and banging his helmet against the field, McCray, who had 142 yards on 24 attempts, also exited and did not return.
Finally, in OT No. 8, Isaiah Williams scored to put Illinois ahead 18-16, only for Cain to come back with a 2-point run of his own to keep the game alive.
Clifford’s throw to Parker Washington in the eighth overtime was intercepted by linebacker Khalan Tolson. Peters then found Washington in the end zone for the game-winning touchdown pass.
“It was simply a matter of keeping it for the team,” Washington added.
Washington’s teammates converged on him as soon as he grabbed the ball. Others dashed to the middle of the field to cartwheel or perform backflips, displaying unexpected vigor after a 4:11 game.
The 2-point conversion shootout style was adopted in 2019, after a seven-overtime contest between LSU and Texas A&M that left both teams battered. This year, the 2-point conversion possessions began in the third overtime period rather than the fifth, as was previously the case.
On a damp day at Beaver Stadium, bullish backs Chase Brown and McCray rushed for a combined 365 yards and a score while flanking Penn State’s defense, while James McCourt made three field goals, including 39- and 32-yarders in overtime. In regulation, the Illini (3-5, 2-3 Big Ten) outgained the Nittany Lions 370 to 207 yards, rallying from a 10-0 hole.
Illinois coach Bret Bielema stated, “To see our locker room right now is really fantastic.” “They are fighting for each other.”
The Nittany Lions (5-2, 2-2) rushed for just 62 yards and struggled to protect a banged-up Clifford. KeAndre Lambert-Smith snagged a touchdown pass and Jordan Stout added three field goals for the Nittany Lions (5-2, 2-2).
The Illini tied the game 10-10 early in the fourth quarter with a 37-yard field goal by McCourt, who was led by Brown’s 229 total yards.
After a sluggish fourth quarter, the game went to overtime, when McCourt and Stout matched each other’s kicks until a series of goal-line standoffs took the game to new heights.
“On offense, defense, and special teams, we had other chances to make huge plays to close the game and we didn’t,” Penn State coach James Franklin said.
Clifford went down with an undisclosed injury against Iowa and was unable to complete the game. He took care of a little task on Saturday morning.
In the first half, the third-year starter only attempted nine passes and took a long time to get back on his feet after being sacked on his first series. Clifford was able to revive his offense on its third attempt after two disappointing drives that yielded just 15 yards on seven plays.
Clifford worked swiftly, completing two consecutive throws downfield to top target Jahan Dotson, then firing a 42-yard touchdown ball to a slanting Lambert-Smith.
With 11:42 left in the second quarter, Stout scored a 35-yard field goal to make it 10-0.
The Illini carried the ball 12 times in a 15-play drive spearheaded by Brown and McCray, which concluded when Brown bulled into the end zone from a yard out to reduce Penn State’s lead to 10-7. McCourt’s tying field goal came after another 16-play, 70-yard drive.
This report was based on information from The Associated Press.
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