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Illinois? No Problem ... Right, Penn State?

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Nathan Scheelhaase normally does not strike fear into opponents, but Penn State's defense isn't as scary as it used to be. Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images.
Nathan Scheelhaase normally does not strike fear into opponents, but Penn State's defense isn't as scary as it used to be. Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images.

Nathan Scheelhaase’s personal life has been a bit embarrassing in the last few days on a national level.

While Scheelhaase was getting shut down by Michigan State’s ironclad defense last week, his father was boozing it up like most middle-aged men at a football game. Then, Scheelhaase’s father, Nathan Creer, was involved in an argument with other fans during the game, arrested and banned from Illinois’ campus for one year.

First, let’s say Scheelhaase’s personal life will not affect how he Fighting Illini into Beaver Stadium to play the Nittany Lions. Scheelhaase is a 22-year-old man who should be mature enough not to allow his father’s recent shortcomings to distract his athletic performance.

I’m not going to give him a pat on the back for playing well or give him a pass for playing poorly when I break down his performance against Penn State’s defense.

That’s for sensational, unimaginative columnists who are creating a false narrative as if Scheelhaase is actually thinking about his dad on the field.

Now, let’s shift gears and talk about Scheelhaase the football player, not the son.

He has 997 career passing attempts with 559 more rushes, so he’s been around long enough to have seen just about everything that a college defense can throw at him. In fact, he beat Penn State in 2010, his freshman year.

The Nittany Lions have held Scheelhaase to just 14 points since then.

Scheelhaase can make plays with his arm much better than his feet. After all, he only averages 3.3 yards per rush. His passing stats aren’t all that impressive either, but we’ve seen this storyline before.

Blake Bortles and Nate Sudfeld were somewhat experienced, under-the-radar quarterbacks when they played Penn State’s leaky defense. They each had career games.

It might be a similar outing for Scheelhaase if Penn State hasn’t tightened up its defense top to bottom. The defensive line can’t get to opposing quarterbacks. The linebackers can’t make big plays. The secondary can’t stop big plays downfield.

Illinois likes to have Scheelhaase pass nearly 50 percent of the time on first down, and he does pretty well with a 74 percent completion rate and 10.7 yards per attempt.

That’s actually extraordinary.

Scheelhaase’s efficiency significantly declines by third down, making Penn State’s performance on first down extremely critical.

If Penn State is to avoid another defensive debacle, they need to stop Scheelhaase on first down.