Matt McGloin played a basically error free game on Saturday night, completing 17 of 26 passes against the Wildcats for 192 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Devon Smith stepped up in the absence of Derek Moye and showcased his world class speed, catching six passes for 110 yards including a 45 yard touchdown score. The passing game did not need to do much in the second half with McGloin throwing just three passes as the offense ran through Silas Redd. It was the fourth straight 100 yard game for the sophomore back who carried the ball 18 times for 164 yards and a touchdown. The Penn State defense was shaky in the first half allowing 24 points and 281 yards. But the pass rush collected seven sacks on the day and eventually wore down the Northwestern offense line, shutting out the Wildcats in the second half.
Last season’s 33-13 loss to Illinois was one of the worst Penn State losses in recent history, ranking as the third highest margin of defeat in Beaver Stadium since 1990. The Nittany Lions were completely shut out on the offensive side of the ball as they compiled just 235 yards of offense and averaged only 2.5 yards per carry on the ground. In contrast the fighting Illini had their way on offense especially on the ground, carrying the ball 54 times as a team for 282 yards. Nathan Scheelhaase played a near perfect game in the 2010 victory, throwing for 151 yards with a touchdown and just four incompletions. Matt McGloin did not play in the contest as this was the last game in which Rob Bolden played the whole way through. McGloin’s favorite target and Penn State’s top performer from last year’s loss will not be available on Saturday, as Derek Moye caught 3 passes for 106 yards and had the Nittany Lions’ lone score in the 2010 defeat.
Illinois’ crushing of Penn State last season came as a shock to Penn State fans and put an ominous glow on the Penn State season at the time. But Matt McGloin rejuvenated the Penn State faithful the very next week and got the team on track. The fighting Illini will have to respect the passing game much more this time around even with the absence of Moye, as they will not have the benefit of playing against an inexperienced freshman quarterback once again. Even in his old age Joe Paterno is still coaching on a much higher level than Saturday’s counterpart Ron Zook, who has admitted to sometimes not even knowing the score of the game (as witnessed when they played Indiana). Let’s just hope that JoePa will be able to let Zook know that Penn State won when the two shake hands on Saturday after the game.