Rapid Reaction: Miles Sanders, rushing attack too much as Penn State defeats Illinois
Talent usually prevails. And on Friday night, it was Miles Sanders, Trace McSorley and the Penn State rushing attack that proved to be too much for Illinois.
Penn State racked up 387 rushing yards and 591 total yards in a 63-24 win over the Illini in the B1G opener. Don’t be fooled by the lopsided score though, because through three quarters, the 10th-ranked Nittany Lions got all they could handle from Lovie Smith and Co.
Illinois went punch-for-punch with Penn State through 45 minutes. The two teams were knotted at 7-7 at the end of the first quarter. At halftime, the Nittany Lions held on to a 21-17 advantage. And early in the third quarter, the Illini even took a 24-21 lead on an incredible trick play that resulted in a touchdown.
It was the first time all season the Lions had surrendered a third quarter score. For 45 minutes, Illinois looked capable of pulling off an incredible upset.
But Penn State’s muscle and talent was too much. The combination of Sanders and McSorley on the ground wore down the Illini defense. In the fourth quarter, it was evident that Illinois was completely gassed.
The Lions outscored Illinois 28-0 in the final 15 minutes.
Sanders finished the night with 200 yards and three touchdowns on 22 carries. All three of those numbers were career highs for the junior running back. McSorley added 92 yards of his own.
It was just too much for Illinois’ defense.
On the final score sheet, the numbers will read as if Penn State took care of business. This was another cheap victory that came easily for the No. 10 team in the country. For three quarters, it was anything but easy.
That’s the concerning part for Penn State. The Nittany Lions host Ohio State next Saturday. They can’t rely on superior talent and one quarter to get through that one. Because if that happens, PSU will wind up on the wrong side of a blowout contest.
Penn State’s rushing attack proved to be too powerful for Illinois. Sanders was too quick and too elusive to keep in-check. Having such a strong presence on the ground was certainly a positive for the Nittany Lions in Champaign.
It’s hard to ignore those first three quarters, though. Especially with the Buckeyes peeking around the corner.