Following a wide receiver pass for a touchdown from Illinois’ Trenard Davis, the Nittany Lions stared right into a 24-21 deficit against the Illini. In a game where Penn State was a 26-point favorite, it seemed like an upset could be on the horizon in Champaign.
Well, not quite.
Penn State reverted back to its 2016 ways — that is, being a second half team. Miles Sanders scampered for 48 yards to give the lead back to the Nittany Lions, and from there, it was pure domination from James Franklin’s crew. Trace McSorley found Juwan Johnson on a pivotal third down to make it 35-24, and then following a Jan Johnson interception, No. 9 found KJ Hamler to put the game out of reach at 42-24.
Of course, that wasn’t it from the Nittany Lions. Ricky Slade scored twice down the stretch — one on a 61-yard run and the other on a 1-yard run. Meanwhile, Journey Brown also joined the party, scoring on a 6-yard run to give us our final of 63-24.
Still, despite the blowout, it’s probably fair to still have concerns about the game overall given Penn State’s play through the first 36 minutes or so — especially defensively. The Illini had success running the football, and with an Ohio State squad that features JK Dobbins and Mike Weber coming to Happy Valley next weekend, Brent Pry’s unit will have to play much better if they expect to oust the Buckeyes.
But, that being said, it’s hard to see this Penn State offense being contained. Miles Sanders showed why he’s a top five running back in America, running for 200 yards while displaying speed, power, and patience. Meanwhile, Juwan Johnson got his mojo back, hauling in four receptions for 51 yards, and adding a big touchdown to start the fourth quarter.
Could it have been a cleaner game? Of course. But just like we saw with the 2016 Nittany Lions, the same is true of this group — it’s a whole different ballgame in the second half.