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Week Five In-Game Blog - Illinois

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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Welcome to in-game coverage for the 2012 Penn State Football season.  Each week, will provide insight from the press box at all 12 games on the schedule.  Check back often for running updates as the action unfolds.

The Nittany Lions open Big Ten play at Illinois today in Memorial Stadium.

Halftime - Penn State 21, Illinois 0
The Nittany Lions punted on their first offensive drive, but an Illinois fumble on the return set up Penn State's first of two touchdowns in the first quarter.  Fresh off a 94-yard performance against Temple last week, running back Zach Zwinak plunged into the end zone to make it a 7-0 game.  After stopping Illinois on the ensuing drive, the Nittany Lions went right back to work with an eight-play, 60-yard touchdown drive, which was capped by a 1-yard touchdown run from Matt McGloin.  Illinois missed a short field goal in the first quarter, and the Nittany Lions answered shortly before the half.  Zwinak set the Nittany Lions up with great field position after a series of running plays.  McGloin and tight end Matt Lehman capped off the drive with a 21-yard touchdown connection with 3:11 to play in the half.  From there, Illinois marched inside the Nittany Lion 10-yard line.  On fourth-and-goal, linebacker Michael Mauti stepped in front of a Nathan Scheelhaase pass on the goal line and raced 99 yards before being tripped up.  The return was the longest interception return in Penn State Football history.  Despite the 21-0 lead, the Lions had opportunities to put the game even further out of reach.  Nonetheless, Penn State played a good half on the road to open the Big Ten season.

10:22 3rd Quarter - Penn State 21, Illinois 7
Illinois took full advantage of the field position game during the first three possessions of the second half.  After pinning moving the chains to mid-field, Illinois pinned the Lions inside their 1-yard line.  Penn State punted out of its end zone.  Illinois then marched into Nittany Lion territory before a trick play resulted in a score.  Illini tailback Josh Ferguson found a wide-open Spencer Harris for a 22-yard score to make it a 21-7 game.

3:15 3rd Quarter - Penn State 28, Illinois 7
An 18-yard completion to Brandon Moseby-Felder and a 16-yard connection with Kyle Carter fueled Penn State's fourth touchdown drive of the afternoon.  McGloin visited the end zone for the second time on the afternoon with another 1-yard QB sneak scoring play.  The senior quarterback now has 14 total touchdowns in 2012, including four rushing.

FINAL: Penn State 35, Illinois 7
The Nittany Lions capped off their third-straight victory with a second touchdown from sophomore running back Zach Zwinak.  Zwinak finished the day with 100 yards on 19 carries and two touchdowns.  Defensively, the Lions were led by a standout performance from their heart and soul leader, Michael Mauti.  Mauti was all over the field, finishing with six tackles and two interceptions.  Head coach Bill O'Brien was pleased with the team's effort in Saturday's 28-point victory, but he talked after the game about leaving too many points on the field.  The Lions did not play their best game, but a 35-7 road victory in Big Ten play speaks volumes about the team's preparation for Saturday's clash for Illinois.  The team was amped up to play the Illini all week, and Saturday's effort will continue to build the team's confidence heading into the Northwestern game next week.  Defensively, the Nittany Lions have limited their opponents to just 15-of-42 on third down during the past three games.  Additionally, Penn State has forced 11 turnovers in five games to open the season.  The team's confidence is growing with each passing day, but the Lions still have a great deal of potential.  Penn State welcomes unbeaten Northwestern (5-0) to Beaver Stadium on Saturday for a noon kick.


Pregame Reading:
- The Nittany Lions arrived at Memorial Stadium just before 8:30 a.m. CT this morning.  It is shaping up to be a perfect weather day for the Big Ten opener.  Temperatures are expected to climb near 75 degrees with sunny skies.  Kickoff will be just after noon ET on ESPN.

- Coming off a 491-yard offensive performance, the Nittany Lions are set to face off with a talented Illinois front four.  Led by Nagurski, Bednarik, Lombardy and Hendricks Awards candidate Michael Buchanan, Illinois' defensive line will challenge the Nittany Lion offensive line.  Penn State will welcome the return of sophomore running back Bill Belton on Saturday, to go along with a deep stable of running backs - Derek Day, Zach Zwinak, Curtis Dukes and Michael Zordich.

- On the defensive side of the ball, Penn State's front seven wants to stop the run first and foremost every Saturday.  This week won't be any different.  Defensive line coach Larry Johnson told this week that stopping the run is atop the gameplan against Illinois.  One dimension of the Illini rushing attack the Nittany Lions need to account for is quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase.

- One side note leading up to kickoff, 10 Illini beat writers in the local Champaign newspaper picked Illinois to win today's Big Ten opener.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

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