STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) -- Cornerback Tony Davis scored on a
6-yard fumble return, Anthony Scirrotto had two interceptions and
returned an onside kick for a touchdown and Penn State overcame
Illinois' ground game to defeat the Illini 26-12 Saturday.
Rashard Mendenhall ran for 161 yards on 14 carries for Illinois
(2-6, 1-3 Big Ten). The Nittany Lions struggled on offense, but the
defense came up with big stops in Illinois territory and Penn State
(5-3, 3-2) scored nine points in the last 1:20 to pull away.
In trouble at his own 7, Illinois quarterback Isiah Williams
scrambled but was sacked and fumbled after linebacker Paul
Posluszny grabbed him from behind. The ball took two bounces before
Davis took hold and ran untouched into the end zone for a 19-7 lead
midway through the third quarter.
Dan Connor sacked Williams in the end zone for a safety with
1:20 left in the game. Scirrotto recovered the ensuing onside kick
and returned it 29 yards for a score to send the homecoming crowd
away on a bright note. "We are ... Penn State!" rang through the
packed Beaver Stadium.
Still, it was hardly a banner day for the Lions. The offense
didn't have any rhythm, and the defense was confounded early by
Illinois' rushing game, which gained 202 yards. The Big Ten's
second-best rush offense bested the conference's second-best rush
Mendenhall had a 79-yard dash down the right sideline that set
up one of Jason Reda's four field goals on the afternoon.
Williams, a freshman making his fifth career start, was able to
escape trouble with his legs often, especially before halftime,
when Illinois led 9-3.
A stunned crowd often could muster no more than groans and a
smattering of boos.
That changed in the second half.
Morelli was limited in practice this week after sustaining a
concussion last week against Michigan. He finished 18-of-34 for 144
yards and an interception.
Williams finished 13-of-33 for 156 yards and two interceptions.
The Lions were able to contain him more in the second half, and he
had 5 yards rushing on 19 carries.
Williams also was plagued by dropped balls by his wide-open
receivers that could have kept some drives alive.
Dropped balls hurt Penn State, too, including one that bounced
off Jordan Norwood's hands just after he was hit by safety Kevin
Mitchell. Brit Miller snagged the ball out of the air for the
interception, and Reda kicked a 40-yard field goal three plays
later to give the Illini a 9-3 lead.