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Turning Point: Johnny-on-the-Spot Dixon

Dixon’s interception snuffed out a promising Illinois drive early in the second half and prevented the Illini from ever truly threatening to pull the upset.

Penn State v Illinois Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Penn State received the opening kickoff of the second half, nursing a 16-7 lead with an opportunity to “double dip” after nailing a field goal right at the halftime buzzer. Instead, Illinois forced the Nittany Lions into a three-and-out and returned the ensuing punt all the way to their own 39-yard line, giving themselves solid starting field position for their first drive of the second half, with a golden opportunity to make this a true ball game with a touchdown.

On the second play of the ensuing drive, Luke Altmyer fired a pass near the left sideline for his favorite target, Isiah Williams, who proceeded to make an excellent grab and give Illinois a fresh set of downs at the PSU 25. The very next play, Altmyer went back to pass and fired one down the left sideline near the end zone for another top target of his in Casey Washington, who infamously made the game-winning grab in the ninth overtime of the greatest win in Illinois football history...

There was no joy in Champaign this time however, as Mighty Casey never caught the ball, because Johnny Dixon read Altmyer’s pass like a book to reel in the interception and return it about 20 yards before his knee touched the ground. PSU didn’t end up getting any points off the turnover and ended up punting the ball back to Illinois, but the Illini would not get anywhere near the red zone again until midway through the fourth quarter when PSU had this game in the bag with a 30-7 lead.

Sometimes, it really pays to have a Johnny-on-the-Spot.