3 takeaways from No. 7 Penn State's 30-13 win at Illinois
Style points were in short order during No. 7 Penn State’s 30-13 win at Illinois. But there’s something to be said for outslugging a Bret Bielema team in a grimy road contest, and the Nittany Lions passed that test with flying colors.
Even though Penn State’s offense never really found its groove, the Nittany Lions took advantage of multiple short fields to score at least 30 points for the 10th straight game dating back to last year. That streak is tops among FBS programs.
Here are 3 takeaways from Drew Allar’s first career road start for the Nittany Lions.
Penn State’s defense gets the job done
Penn State finished the game with a plus-5 turnover margin, which will get the job done just about every time. The Nittany Lions picked off Illini quarterback Luke Altmyer 4 times, including a game-changing Johnny Dixon INT at the Penn State 7 on the opening drive of the second half for Illinois.
Illinois was down 16-7 at the time, and a touchdown — or even a field goal — could have changed the tenor of the game. Dixon’s interception helped make sure there would be no funny stuff on Saturday afternoon.
Only a pair of garbage-time drives put the Illini offense over the 300-yard threshold.
Thanks in part to the takeaways, Penn State’s average starting field position was its own 39-yard line.
Drew Allar is human, but still good enough
Allar, who was flawless in home starts against West Virginia and Delaware, had some hiccups in his maiden road voyage. He completed just 48% of his passes (16 of 33) for 208 yards against an Illinois defense that bore greater resemblance to last year’s top-ranked unit in the country than the one that struggled against Toledo and Kansas.
No. 3 running back Trey Potts ended up with more touchdown passes in this game than Allar with an 11-yard throw to tight end Tyler Warren.
But Allar has importantly avoided throwing any interceptions in his 3 games as Penn State’s starter. The Illini led the country with 24 INTs last year, so that’s no small feat. Especially in his first career road start.
Illinois has a QB crisis
At least 3 of Altmyer’s interceptions — and maybe all of them — would have come against any defense. Bad decisions, bad throws. The Nittany Lions simply took advantage of the gifts he provided.
He finally got pulled for backup John Paddock in the fourth quarter, and Bielema must give Paddock further consideration moving forward. Paddock, a former starter at Ball State, finished 10 of 16 for 129 yards and a touchdown.