I thought Penn State would fall back to their usually overly conservative road offense which they did but I didn't think it would work as well as it did. Penn State amassed 513 yards of total offense but more importantly 338 on the ground. For the first time the offensive line looked confident and actually dominated an opponent in the second half. When the Illini started to get gassed the line bullied them around and put the game out of reach.
Both Evan Royster and Stephon Green eclipsed the century mark and PSU finally broke out the QB draw that was so effective last year as Clark chipped in 83 yards on the ground. While Royster did get over the 100 yard mark he looked tentative and unsure early but Green picked up the slack and had easily his most complete day as a Nittany Lion. Stephon managed some tough yards between the tackles and reminded us all that if you give him an opening he has the blazing speed to take it to the house on a 2nd quarter TD run of 52 yards. Green is quietly making himself more of an offensive option then just a 3rd down back.
Daryll Clark didn't have eye-catching numbers throwing the ball but he was effective and took care of the ball for the most part. Andrew Quarless led all receivers with 5 catches, none of which were more than 9 yards but he was a reliable target for Clark especially when he got some pressure. Derek Moye continues to be the deep threat for Penn State leading the team with 57 yards and hauling in the longest (a 22 yarder).
The story of the game though was the offensive line. The line pass blocked very well from the get go (Clark was not sacked) and got better and better as the game went on. Early in the 3rd quarter with Penn State clinging to a 7 to 3 lead, PSU got the ball on their own 31 and took the game over marching 69 yards for a touchdown. The drive was mostly on the ground and included a 51 yard QB draw play by Clark to the Illinois 5 yard line. Penn State never looked back and the line led the way. It's amazing how much better the line plays when they play real competition huh?
Another game another complete effort by the defense. Illinois didn't really score until the game was all but decided after Penn State took a 28-3 lead in the 4th quarter. Juice did throw for 263 yards and Arrelious Benn did some harm catching 5 balls for 96 yards but PSU did a good job of minimizing the damage. The defensive line played particularly well against Williams, staying in their lanes and keeping him bottled up for most of the day.
Josh Hull had another steady day leading the team with 11 tackles and Bowman had 7. It seemed as if the Illini wanted nothing to do with Bowman, often running away from his side of the D. When PSU gets Lee back to flank Bowman, teams will have a tough time scheming against this defense.
Eric Latimore and Jack Crawford each had sacks and the ends were particularly menacing for most of the afternoon. It seems that our fears about the secondary may have been unfounded, they have been playing well. Freshman Stephon Morris continues to impress hauling in the only interception of the day.
We are going to have to admit that the punt and kick return for PSU just plain sucks. The punt return is nothing more than a fair catch and there doesn't seem to be much in the way of improvement for the kick return team. Kick coverage seems to be heading in the right direction, at least for one game anyway.
Then there's Jeremy Boone. Boone averaged 49.5 yards on four punts and completely changed field position early in the 1st when he boomed a 66 yarder down to the Illinois 1. He earned Big Ten Special Teams player of the week for his effort and would be 2nd in the nation with his 48.8 yard average but he hasn't kicked enough to qualify.
Penn State did what it had to do, they went on the road against a team desperate for a win and dominated especially late in the game. The offensive line seems to be getting better and we finally saw the return of Clark's legs. Teams will have to respect that aspect of his game from this point forward.
Now we get another tune up game before getting to the meat of the Big Ten schedule. I would love to see PSU score early and often on Eastern Illinois and get some of the younger guys some game experience, especially Kevin Newsome.