Hey Wha Happen? Penn State 24, Illinois 17

Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Penn State guts out another Big Ten victory over the hapless Illini and their loser coach.

Surprise, Tim Beckman lost. Again. The way he lost, though, was sublime. Beckman, the huckster with a turd's intellect who flew to State College with his entire staff 16 months ago to steal as many Penn State players as he could, and then lied about it at Big Ten media days one week later, watched his team overcome a 14-3 halftime deficit to take its first ever 4th quarter Big Ten lead, 17-14, with just over 5 minutes remaining. Beckman had hope. His team, in spite of himself, was fighting for victory.

As Penn State drove 70 yards in 7 plays on the cusp of recovering the lead, only to fumble at the Ilini 1-yard line with 3 minutes remaining, Beckman's dream of his first Big Ten win grew wings. But Penn State's maligned defense forced a critical 3-and-out from an Illini offense that had moved the ball well most of the day. And Penn State's offense marched into scoring range, dropped the game winning touchdown, and instead kicked the game-tying field goal. Regulation ended tied at 17, and Beckman still had hope. He'd never been so close to a Big Ten win.

Best of all, the Illini won the overtime coin flip, and would get to go on offense last. The regulation win had slipped away from Beckman, but maybe redemption would be found in the extra time. And as Bill Belton's touchdown run was called back for a holding penalty, leaving the Lions with a difficult 3rd and 11, Beckman had to like his chances. Perhaps the football gods were finally smiling on him, and giving him that first conference win in two years.

Nope. Christian Hackenberg threw a dart to TE Kyle Carter between two Illini defenders for a touchdown. And on the next snap, Adrian Amos and Ryan Keiser combined to intercept Beckman's quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase. Game over. Beckman's still a loser. And the football gods weren't just smiling, they were hi-fiving, pointing, and laughing. Loudly.

Karma's a cruel queen, Tim. But remember this - you earned it.

Three Completely Unrelated, Probably Useless Thoughts

1) William Earl "Bill" Belton Jr., take a bow. Belton carried 36 times for 201 yards and a touchdown, becoming the first Penn State running back since Larry Johnson in 2002 to break the 200 barrier. "Billy B made us look good out there, and I'm so happy to have him as my running back," said guard John Urschel (who just made the finalists list for the Campbell trophy - the academic Heisman). "All credit goes to the offensive line," answered Belton, in a separate interview.

It has to be a great feeling for Belton, though, no matter who gets the credit. Belton was a late addition to the 2011 Penn State recruiting class. He originally verballed to Pitt, but re-opened his recruitment when then Panthers coach Diamond Dave Wannstedt was fired in December 2010. He next looked at West Virginia, but turned away during Dana Holgorson's coup over Bill Stewart. He played sparingly at wide receiver in 2011, and had to have wondered what he got himself into in November of that year, as the world turned upside down. The next year wasn't much better. He changed positions, to running back, and was injured in the first game, losing his spot in the lineup halfway through the 2012 season. And now, in week ten of the 2013 season? He's the lead dog, and much more than a "change of pace" guy. C.O.P-types don't carry the ball 36 times, catch 2 more, and make 20 blitz pickups. "Billy's really improved on the field, and off the field, which has been great to see," said BOB. Congratulations, Bill.

2) Was it a pretty game? No. Penn State took a 14-0 lead early in the 2nd quarter, marching 82 and 84 yards for touchdowns on their first two possessions. They started fast - or at least, the offense did. And then the offense appeared to take most of the rest of the game off. They missed a 37-yard field goal on their 3rd drive. A ridiculous unsportsmanlike penalty on C Ty Howle killed their 4th drive. A couple of inaccurate throws from Hackenberg finished their 5th drive. They couldn't make 1 yard on two tries, turning the ball over on downs on their 6th drive. Penalties killed the 7th drive. And Belton's fumble at the Illini 1-yard line gave Beckman renewed hope on their 8th drive. Between all of that, though, the offense rolled up nearly 500 yards, including 250 yards on 48 carries on the ground. And most importantly, they got it done when they had to.

3) Speaking of penalties, my goodness. Entering this game against Illinois, Penn State was 3rd in the nation for least penalized teams. Saturday? 11 hankies against, for 95 yards, including not 1, not 2, not 3, not 4, but 5 - five - of the personal foul, 15-yard variety. So what the Big Ten is telling us is this: you either take Dave Witvoet and the like, who don't even use whistles; or you get the clown squad we had Saturday, throwing flags like they might catch their official's capri pants on fire if they didn't get rid of them quickly. 20 accepted penalties, total, yesterday. Can't there be some kind of middle ground, Big Ten?

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