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Penn State Wins Ugly Game

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Coach Bill O'Brien and Penn State improved to 5-3 this year, but no one looked pretty Saturday, including Illinois and the officials. Photo by David Dermer/Diamond Images/Getty Images.
Coach Bill O'Brien and Penn State improved to 5-3 this year, but no one looked pretty Saturday, including Illinois and the officials. Photo by David Dermer/Diamond Images/Getty Images.

Penn State may have won, but everyone — Penn State, Illinois and Big Ten officials — deserved a loss today.

Penn State still cannot stop opposing quarterbacks. This time it was the experienced, but forgetful Nathan Scheelhaase who passed for more than 300 yards. We'll look into exactly how Scheelhaase methodically picked apart the Nittany Lions defense on four consecutive drives that accumulated 318 yards in 50 plays.

Ilinois had a trip to the red zone and a deep touchdown pass in its first two drives negated by holding and chop block penalties, resulting in no points. In the fourth quarter and down 14-10, Illinois tried a quick slant that fell incomplete at the goal line.

The officiating, while a difficult responsibility, was awful. Each team's offensive line held onto defensive linemen like they were trying to hold their friends back from fights with heavyweight boxers, which went largely ignored. A shoddy roughing the passer call gave Illinois the opportunity to kick a field goal instead of going into halftime scoreless.

Lastly, a fourth quarter offsides call also was botched. Illinois had been flagged for a false start the play before and had a first-and-15. Scheelhaase scrambled on the next play for five yards, and offsides was called. Officials automatically waved off the offsides call without consulting with Illinois, resulting in Scheelhaase calling a timeout and accepting the penalty instead.

The end result was Illinois wasting one of their final two timeouts, because officials weren't paying attention to down and distance.

Still, give credit where it's due.

Scheelhaase and Hackenberg each had good days. Bill Belton, despite fumbling near the goal line, and Allen Robinson were powerhouses in the run and pass game, respectively. Illinois' Spencer Harris and Josh Ferguson also had big games for Scheelhaase. Defensively, Jordan Lucas had a huge red zone interception, and Ryan Keiser clinched Penn State's win with another interception in overtime.

The Nittany Lions (5-3, 2-2) now should avoid a losing season and will finish above .500 by winning just two of its final four against Minnesota, Purdue, Nebraska and Wisconsin.