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PENN STATE vs. ILLINOIS
|Saturday, Oct. 31 - 12 p.m. ET|
|Beaver Stadium | University Park, Pa.|
|Game Day Information:|
GAME DAY LINKS
|Radio: 93.7 FM | 1450 AM | Sirius: 136 | XM: 196|
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|Game Notes: Penn State | Illinois|
|Statistics: Penn State | Illinois|
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
|28%||3rd Down %||38%|
|22%||4th Down %||53%|
|28:52||Time of Possession||29:37|
* - Per Game Statistics
Oct. 26, 2015
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Following an exciting 31-30 win over Maryland in Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium, Penn State returns to the friendly confines of Beaver Stadium to host Illinois in a noon Big Ten matchup televised on ESPN2.
After the back-and-forth game against the Terrapins, head coach James Franklin speculated that the suspense-filled game shortened his life expectancy by five years, but the win nonetheless extended the season by roughly a month as the Nittany Lions became bowl eligible. Penn State will be looking to go to its 46th bowl game in program history.
Leading Penn State to victory over Maryland was quarterback Christian Hackenberg. Following running back Saquon Barkley's 194-yard performance against No. 1 Ohio State, the Terrapins went all-in to stop the freshman, daring Hackenberg to throw deep. The game plan was able to keep Barkley from achieving another gaudy stat line, but Hackenberg answered the challenge in a big way, racking up 315 yards passing on just 13 completions. Nine of those completions were for 20 yards or more. The totals made Hackenberg Penn State's career leader in passing yards and completions. He also moved into a tie with Zack Mills for first place in career pass attempts.
Maryland tested the Penn State defense, but the unit made big plays when it needed to as the Nittany Lions forced a season-high five turnovers, including a game-sealing interception by Malik Golden.
Penn State will be looking avenge another close 2014 loss against Illinois. The Fighting Illini secured last season's meeting with a game-winning field goal with just eight seconds remaining. Illinois enters the game on a two-game losing streak after starting the season 4-1. Quarterback Wes Lunt leads the Big Ten in completions per game, while the Illini offensive line will be an interesting matchup for Penn State's defensive line, as Illinois is tops in the Big Ten in minimizing sacks.
It will be another three weeks before Penn State takes the field at Beaver Stadium, as the Lions will travel to Northwestern next week and then enjoy a bye week after that before hosting Michigan for the annual White Out game and Senior Day for the home finale.
ILLINOIS INTERIM HEAD COACH BILL CUBIT
Bill Cubit was named interim head coach at Illinois on August 28, 2015. Cubit also serves as offensive coordinator, his third season in that role for the Fighting Illini. He spent his first two seasons in Champaign-Urbana working with the quarterbacks, in addition to offensive coordinator duties. He was previously the head coach at Western Michigan from 2005-12.
Cubit brings 34 years of coaching experience, including 17 years as a head coach on the collegiate and high school level. He also has spent eight years as an offensive coordinator at five NCAA Division I schools working the sidelines in five of the nation's premier conferences (Big East, Big 12, Mid-American, PAC-10 and Southeastern).
Cubit's head coaching experience includes his time at Western Michigan and five seasons (1992-96) at Division III Widener University in Philadelphia.
As a high school head coach in Pennsylvania, Cubit coached at Academy Park (Pa.) and his alma mater, Sharon Hill.
A Sharon Hill native, Cubit played quarterback and wide receiver at Delaware (1971-74), earning AP All-America honorable mention in 1974.
SCOUTING THE FIGHTIN ILLINI
Illinois started the season 4-1 with its lone loss coming at North Carolina, but enters the Penn State game on a two-game skid after falling at nationally-ranked and unbeaten Iowa (20-29) and most recently to Wisconsin (13-24) at home.
Illinois is 1-2 in Big Ten play, winning its first league game against Nebraska, 14-13, on a touchdown with 10 seconds left.
The Fighting Illini are tied with Ohio State and Iowa for the Big Ten lead with nine interceptions. Defensive backs Taylor Barton and Eaton Spence are tied for second in the conference with three interceptions each.
Quarterback Wes Lunt is averaging 243.1 yards per game yards to rank fourth in the Big Ten. Lunt also ranks 18th nationally and tops in the conference with 22.57 completions per game. He is one of the most difficult quarterbacks to bring down, as Illinois leads the Big Ten and ranks 15th nationally with just 1.14 sacks allowed per game.
Lunt's top target is Geronimo Allison, who leads the conference and ranks 16th in FBS with 6.9 receptions per game. He also ranks second in conference and 14th nationally with 100.0 receiving yards per game.
Safety Clayton Fejedelem ranks 11th in FBS and second in the Big Ten with 10.6 tackles per game. He also has a punt return for a touchdown.
In the Big Ten, Illinois is second to Penn State in tackles for loss per game averaging 8.0.
Penn State's victory over Maryland last week gave the Nittany Lions their sixth victory of the season, making them eligible to play in their 46th bowl game in program history.
The Lions' 45 bowl appearances ranked ninth-highest among FBS schools at the start of the season.
Head coach James Franklin is now 5-for-5 in leading teams to bowl eligibility as a head coach.
GREAT HOME START
With five consecutive victories in five consecutive home games, the Nittany Lions are off to their best home start since 2008. It is also their fourth 5-0 home start since 2000 (2005, 2007, 2008, 2015).
HOME SWEET HOME
With a 270-71 all-time record in Beaver Stadium, PSU boasts the eighth-best winning percentage (.792) in its current home venue amongst current FBS schools, and leads the Big Ten. Ohio State ranks ninth overall with a 422-110-20 (.783) mark in Ohio Stadium, which was built in 1922. Only Alabama (.818) and Auburn (.795) boast higher winning percentages than Penn State in facilities older than Beaver Stadium. Baylor leads the country with a perfect 10-0 mark in the brand new McLane Stadium (2014).
PENN STATE VS. BIG TEN
Penn State owns a 190-95-3 mark against Big Ten Conference teams since the Nittany Lions first opposed Ohio State in 1912.
The Nittany Lions began play as a member of the Big Ten Conference in 1993 and have a 112-68 mark.
Prior to joining the conference, Penn State played 107 games vs. the current Big Ten alignment and was 79-25-3 in those games.
Maryland and Rutgers joined the Big Ten on July 1, 2014.
NITTANY LIONS FROM ILLINOIS
Penn State has four players from Illinois on its roster. All joined the Nittany Lions during head coach James Franklin's tenure.
S Joe Berg - Mundelein/Carmel Catholic
T Brendan Brosnan - Park Ridge/Maine South
DE Colin Castagna - Barrington/Barrington
K/P Tyler Davis - St. Charles/St. Charles North
PENN STATE-ILLINOIS CONNECTIONS
PSU junior safety Bryant Harper and Illinois junior linebacker T.J Neal played together at McKeeseport (Pa.) High School.
PSU junior cornerback Jordan Smith and Illinois sophomore defensive back Darwyn Kelly played together at H.D. Woodson (Md.) High School.
COACHING STAFF CONNECTIONS
Penn State head coach James Franklin, offensive coordinator John Donovan and special teams coordinator Charles Huff all worked with Illinois outside linebackers coach Al Seamonson (2001-10) and offensive line coach Tom Brattan (2001-13) during their time at Maryland.
Franklin and Donovan also worked with Illinois defensive coordinator Tim Banks (2003-06) while at Maryland.
Saturday's game marks the 19th time the Nittany Lions have played a game on Halloween.
The Nittany Lions have a long history of games on October 31, with the first coming on 1888.
Penn State is 9-8-1 in games on Halloween, which includes a 5-2-1 record at home.
Saturday will mark Penn State's first game on Halloween since 1998 (W, 27-0 vs. Purdue) and only the program's second since joining the Big Ten.
The Nittany Lions will take the field against Illinois on a new playing surface inside Beaver Stadium.
Crews began working on Tuesday, Oct. 13 to remove the old sod, which had been in the stadium since October 2005.
A new Kentucky bluegrass surface was installed on Oct. 15.
Originally planted on a sod farm in 2004, the previous surface was installed during the days leading up to the epic primetime clash between Penn State and Ohio State on Oct. 8, 2005.
With three full weeks between home games, Athletic Fields Supervisor Herb Combs and the Beaver Stadium grounds crew took the opportunity to re-sod the field in order to create the best playing surface moving into the future.
Approximately 70,000 square feet of sod was used to complete the stadium playing surface and the nursery on campus.
The new sod came from Tuckahoe Turf Farms in Hammonton, N.J., which supplies several NFL organizations with sod, including the Cleveland Browns, Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers.
With Penn State's one-point win over Maryland, head coach James Franklin improved to 6-4 in games decided by seven points or fewer at Penn State.
The one-point victory was the first since Penn State prevailed in overtime over Boston College in the 2014 Pinstripe Bowl by the exact same score of 31-30.
It was the first one-point win in a regular season game, as well as a Big Ten game, since 2006 at Minnesota (28-27 in OT).
It was also the first one-point victory in regulation since a 16-15 victory over Minnesota in 1997.
GODWIN LEADS RECEIVING CORPS
Sophomore wide receiver Chris Godwin has caught at least four passes in seven of eight games this season and eight of his last nine.
Godwin but totaled a season-high 103 yards on three catches at Ohio State, and then made four catches for 135 yards and a touchdown the following week against Maryland.
Godwin is the first Nittany Lion to post back-to-back 100-yard receiving games since Allen Robinson in 2013 (106 vs. Nebraska, 122 at Wisconsin).
It was his third career 100-yard receiving game (141 vs. Boston College, 2014 Pinstripe Bowl).
He has at least one catch in 20 of 21 career games and four career games with five or more grabs, joining his seven-catch night vs. Boston College in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl.
He has a team-best total of 34 receptions for 628 yards and is averaging 4.3 catches and 78.5 yards per game, to rank in the Top 10 in both in the Big Ten.
TAKING CARE OF THE FOOTBALL
Penn State ranks tied for ninth in the nation and first in the Big Ten with a plus-nine turnover margin (17 takeaways, 8 turnovers).
With five takeaways against Maryland, Penn State improved its ratio despite an uncharacteristic three fumbles lost. PSU entered the game with just three fumbles lost all season.
BARKLEY BREAKS OUT
Despite missing 2.5 games to injury and only receiving one carry in the season opener, Saquon Barkley leads the Lions with 652 rushing yards in six games played.
Barkley's yards per game average of 105.3, which ranks 30th nationally and third in the Big Ten, is skewed down since he only received one carry for one yard in the season opener against Temple and only played a little over a quarter against SDSU before leaving the game.
Barkley's yards per game average is 126.2 when not including the Temple game and 142.2 when not including the Temple and SDSU games. The latter figure would rank him fifth in FBS.
Barkley leads the Big Ten and ranks eighth in FBS with 7.2 yards per carry.
Barkley averaged a season-low 3.1 yards per carry against Maryland, but he was clearly the focus of the Terrapins' game plan and dared the Lions to throw deep. Quarterback Christian Hackenberg threw for a season-high 315 yards on just 13 completions (24.3 ypc).
Barkley scored his fourth rushing TD of the season, which is tied for the fourth-most by a true freshman running back in program history with Curtis Enis in 1995.
A national primetime TV audience was introduced to Barkley at Ohio State, as the true freshman did not disappoint in his return from injury.
Barkley posted his third 100-yard rushing game of the season with 194 yards on 26 carries at Ohio State. His 194 rushing yards were the fourth-most by a Penn State true freshman. He also has the third-highest total with 195 vs. Rutgers.
Barkley is only the second running back to rush for 175 yards or more at Ohio State since 2000, joining Indiana's Tevin Coleman, who had 228 yards last season.
His three 100-yard rushing games are tied with Eric McCoo (1998) and Curtis Enis (1995) for second on the all-time true freshman season list at Penn State. D.J. Dozier's five 100-yard rushing games in 1983 top it.
Barkley notched a career-long 56-yard rush in the fourth quarter against Ohio State. In the first quarter, he had a 44-yard touchdown run called back due to a penalty.
Seventeen of Barkley's 68 rushes have gone for double-digit gains, including five against Ohio State that went for at least 14 yards.
Barkley caught his first career pass against SDSU and took it 22 yards for a touchdown.
His 310 rushing yards in consecutive games against Buffalo and Rutgers were the highest two-game total by a Penn State back since Zach Zwinak had 314 in a two-game span vs. Indiana (135) and Wisconsin (179).
It is also the highest total by a true freshman RB in a two-game span since D.J. Dozier had 359 in 1983 (vs. Rutgers and Alabama). Barkley, Enis and Dozier are the only the true freshman to have back-to-back 100-yard games (Dozier had four in a row in 1983).
Additionally, Barkley's 195 rushing yards against Rutgers were the most by a Penn State true freshman since Eric McCoo had 206 against Michigan State in 1998. Barkley is the fourth true freshman at Penn State to have two or more 100-yard rushing performances (5, D.J. Dozier -- 1983; 3, Curtis Enis - 1995; 3, Eric McCoo -- 1998).
Against Buffalo, Barkley became just the eighth PSU true freshman to rush for over 100 yards in a game, joining, Matt Suhey (1976), Curt Warner (1979), D.J. Dozier (1983), Curtis Ennis (1995), Eric McCoo (1998), Austin Scott (2003) and Silas Redd (2010).
He is also the first PSU player to rush for 100 yards in a quarter since Tony Hunt vs. Akron in 2004. Larry Johnson rushed for more than 100 in a quarter four times in 2002.
Barkley is only the third player since 2000 to rush for 100 yards or more in a quarter, and it has now only happened seven times since 2000.
Barkley (Buffalo and Rutgers) joined Johnson as the only PSU rushers to total 100-plus yard quarters in back-to-back games.
Penn State has scored first in all eight games this season, and nine straight games dating back to last season's Pinstripe Bowl against Boston College.
The Nittany Lions have scored in the first quarter in all but two games (Buffalo and Rutgers.) However, Penn State was able to earn double-digit victories in both, including a season-high 25-point victory over Rutgers.
Penn State is the only team in FBS with multiple losses to have all losses come at the hands of the country's undefeated teams.
The Nittany Lions only losses this season are to Temple and Ohio State. Temple is now ranked No. 21 by the Associated Press and No. 22 in the USA Today Coaches Poll.
Ohio State has been No. 1 in both polls all season. Only 12 undefeated teams remain in FBS.
STOPS BEHIND THE LINE
In addition to leading the nation in sacks with 32 (4.0) pg), Penn State also ranks fifth in the nation and tops in the Big Ten with 9.3 tackles for loss per game.
Penn State has recorded at least five tackles for loss in 15 consecutive games. The Nittany Lions recorded 11.0 tackles for loss vs. Maryland, including 5.0 sacks.
The 15-game streak with 5.0 or more TFLs is the longest since a 15-game string from 2001-03.
The Nittany Lions recorded 11.0 tackles for loss to mark the fifth game this season with at least 9.0 TFLs in a game.
The Penn State defense accumulated 10.0 tackles for loss against Ohio State, the most the Buckeyes had surrendered all season.
Penn State leads the nation in both tackle for loss yardage (361) and sack yardage (246).
Penn State's 15 tackles for loss against Temple were the second-most in the country during the opening week, trailing only Colorado State, which racked up 16 against FCS-level Savannah State. Eleven different Nittany Lions were credited with at least an assist, led by Carl Nassib, Brandon Bell and Anthony Zettel with 2.5 TFL each, while Trevor Williams had 2.0.
Nassib leads the country with 2.2 TFL per game.
NASSIB BREAKING THROUGH
Senior defensive end Carl Nassib has rewarded the Nittany Lions for putting him in the starting lineup, as the former walk-on is enjoying a breakout season by breaking through opposing offensive lines.
Nassib leads the nation with 13.5 sacks (1.69 pg), five forced fumbles (tied) and 17.5 tackles for loss (2.2 pg).
He has recorded a sack in each game this season, and four multi-sack games.
Nassib's 13.5 sacks on the season move him into a tie for No. 4 on the single season charts at Penn State with Maurice Evans (2007). He is just one sack behind Courtney Brown (1999; 13.5) for the No. 3 spot.
Nassib is the first Penn State player to force two fumbles in two games in a season since Maurice Evans did it in 2007. Evans had two forced fumbles against Indiana and two forced fumbles against Texas A&M in the Alamo Bowl.
Nassib's five forced fumbles this season are the most by a Penn State player since Evans had five in the 2007 season.
While making his first career start (high school or college), Nassib made a career-high 10 tackles in the season opener at Temple. His previous high was four stops on October 5, 2013 at Indiana. Nassib also recorded what was then his second career solo sack, good for a 12-yard loss in the second quarter, and his 2.5 tackles for loss were a career-best.
Nassib made even bigger plays the following week against Buffalo, recording three sacks, including back-to-back sack-fumbles to stifle a UB comeback. He also hauled in an interception deep in UB territory after senior defensive tackle Anthony Zettel tipped a pass from the quarterback.
He recorded his fifth sack of the season against Rutgers.
Nassib tallied two sacks against San Diego State, forcing a fumble on one that led to defensive tackle Austin Johnson's 71-yard touchdown run after scooping up the ball. He continued his sack streak with one against Army.
Nassib had a triple-double of sorts against Indiana with 2.0 sacks, 2.0 TFL and two forced fumbles.
At No. 1 Ohio State, he led the Penn State defense with 1.5 sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss, also tying for second on the team with eight tackles. The Lions totaled 10.0 tackles for loss in the game to mark its fourth game with at least 9.0 TFLs. It was also the most surrendered by Ohio State this season.
TWO ADDED TO BEDNARIK WATCH LIST
Defensive linemen Carl Nassib and Austin Johnson were added to the Bednarik Award watch list, joining fellow lineman Anthony Zettel on the list.
Nassib and Johnson were also named ESPN.com Midseason All-Big Ten.
The Bednarik Award has been presented to the College Defensive Player of the Year since 1995.
The Nittany Lions' four Bednarik Award recipients are the most of any school in the nation -- LaVar Arrington (`99), Paul Posluszny (`05 & 06) and Dan Connor (`07).
Nassib currently leads the FBS in sacks (12.5; 1.6 pg), tackles for loss (17.5; 2.2 pg) and tied for the lead in forced fumbles (5).
Johnson has been a force up front for the Nittany Lions 49 tackles, which is tied for second on the team. He also has 3.5 sacks and 9.0 tackles for loss this season. Additionally, Johnson registered his first career touchdown with a 71-yard fumble return. Most recently against Maryland, he tied his career high with nine tackles, marking the third time this season he has recoded nine stops.
Zettel has 34 stops on the season, including 18 solo tackles. He also has 9.0 tackles for loss, including 2.0 sacks. Zettel has also influenced the passing game with four pass breakups. He also has a forced fumble and a fumble recovery on the season.
Junior safety Malik Golden nabbed his first career interception on Maryland's final drive of the game to seal the victory.
NASSIB GARNERS MIDSEASON ALL-AMERICA HONORS
Penn State defensive lineman Carl Nassib garnered multiple midseason All-America honors, including ESPN, CBS Sports, USA Today and SI.com.
CBS Sports Eye on College Football writers Jon Soloman, Tom Fornelli and Robby Kalland named Nassib the National Defensive Player of the Year.
Nassib leads the FBS in sacks (13.5; 1.69 pg) and tackles for loss (18.5; 2.3 pg).
With 4.0 sacks per game and 32 total the Nittany Lions lead the FBS.
The Nittany Lions have recorded at least one sack in 30 consecutive games, which is the longest streak since a 30-game streak from 2007-09.
Senior defensive end Carl Nassib has recorded a sack in each game this season. He leads the nation with 13.5 sacks for an FBS-leading average of 1.69 per game.
Nassib's 13.5 sacks on the season move him into a tie with Courtney Brown (1999; 13.5) for the No. 3 spot.
The Nittany Lions made the most of their few chances for sacks against Army's run-heavy triple-option offense, totaling more sacks (3) than passing attempts (1) and completions (1).
Sophomore linebacker Jason Cabinda registered two sacks in the Army win, including on fourth down to end the Black Knights' comeback hopes.
The PSU defense had four sacks against Indiana, which had only allowed three sacks entering the game.
Penn State is in a three-way tie (California, Utah State) for the lead nationally in fumble recoveries with 10 after recovering two fumbles against Maryland.
Nine different Lions have recovered fumbles, as Garrett Sickels is the only one with two recoveries. He picked up his second vs. Maryland.
Penn State's six fumble recoveries in consecutive games (3 vs. San Diego State and 3 vs. Army) are its most in a two-game span since having six at Virginia (3) and vs. Navy (3) in 2012.
Sickels and linebackers Von Walker and Manny Bowen made their first career fumble recoveries against the Black Knights.
DEFENSIVE LINE LEADER
DT Anthony Zettel moved into a tie for 10th place on the PSU career tackles for loss charts with 1.0 TFL at Maryland. He now has 36 career TFLs and his tied with Tamba Hali (2002-05) and Matt Millen (1976-79).
Zettel set a career-high with seven tackles vs. Maryland. His previous high was seven vs. San Diego State on Sept. 26, 2015.
Zettel recorded a half-sack against Ohio State to give him 17.0 for his career, moving him into a tie for 13th place at PSU with Justin Kurpeikis and Maurice Evans.