Champaign, Ill. — Miles Sanders set career highs by rushing for 200 yards and three touchdowns, Trace McSorley threw for three touchdowns and ran for a personal-best 92 yards, and No. 10 Penn State scored 35 points in the fourth quarter to pull away for a 63-24 victory over Illinois on Friday night.
The Nittany Lions (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) broke this one open after getting all they could handle from a team showing signs of a turnaround in coach Lovie Smith’s third season.
They fell behind by three early in the third before Sanders scored on a 48-yard run and put away Illinois (2-2, 0-1) with two touchdowns in the opening minute of the fourth. It was Penn State’s third straight game with more than 50 points.
“I don’t think we’ve played a complete game,” coach James Franklin said. “I don’t know if we’ve played many complete games since we’ve been here. I think we are getting better. There’s certain plays, there’s certain series, there’s certain quarters that we’re not happy. I’ve watched a little bit of the NFL. It seems it’s the same way at that level.”
McSorley threw a 16-yard touchdown to Juwan Johnson on the first play of the quarter. Ian Johnson intercepted Illinois’ M.J. Rivers, and McSorley hit KJ Hamler with a 21-yarder on the next play, making it 42-24.
Sanders easily surpassed his previous highs of 118 yards and two touchdowns. He had 113 yards and two scores in the first half alone.
McSorley showed why he is a Heisman Trophy hopeful, eclipsing his previous rushing high of 81 yards against Maryland in 2016. The senior also completed 12 of 19 passes for 160 yards with an interception.
Ricky Slade added a 61-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, and the Nittany Lions racked up 591 yards.
Rivers, a true freshman, was 17 of 28 for 149 yards, a touchdown and an interception in his second start with AJ Bush nursing a hamstring injury.
“I think we can all see what kind of a team we can be,” Smith said. “We have a lot of potential. Right now, we’re playing with our backup quarterback. Hopefully with the bye week, AJ (Bush) will be ready to go.”
Reggie Corbin ran for 87 yards. Mike Epstein finished with 73 after back-to-back 100-yard rushing games.
Sanders broke a tackle and plowed through three defenders near the goal line for a 14-yard touchdown that gave Penn State a 7-0 lead.
Illinois tied it on a 2-yard run by Corbin. Then the Nittany Lions scored back-to-back touchdowns and looked ready to blow it open.
Sanders scored from the 2 after the Illini’s Sydney Brown got flagged for interference on an overthrown pass intended for Hamler in the end zone. McSorley then threw a 5-yard touchdown to Pat Freiermuth, who skidded into the end zone as he lost his footing, to make it 21-7.
But a 51-yard run by Corbin set up a 6-yard touchdown pass from Rivers to Ricky Smalling, after the Illini’s Daniel Barker fumbled a reception near the goal line, to make it a seven-point game midway through the second quarter.
Illinois’ Delano Ware intercepted a deep pass by McSorley into double coverage with about 30 seconds left in the half when Penn State could have opted to run out the clock. That led to a 42-yard field goal by Chase McLaughlin as time expired, making it 21-17.
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(At) No. 16 UCF 56, Florida Atlantic 36: McKenzie Milton ran for a career-best three touchdowns while throwing for three more, helping UCF extend the nation’s longest winning streak.
The junior from Kapolei, Hawaii, completed 21 of 32 passes for 306 yards without an interception, and the Knights (3-0) won for the 16th straight time to set a record for consecutive victories by an American Athletic Conference team.
Milton scored on runs of 12, 9 and 13 yards, using a nifty jump cut to avoid a defender and get into the end zone on the last one.
Touchdown passes of 12 yards to Dredrick Snelson, 21 yards to Marlon Williams and 19 yards to Gabriel Davis hiked Milton’s career total to 56 — tied with Blake Bortles for fourth-most in school history.
FAU (2-2) stayed close for a half, but ultimately couldn’t keep pace with the prolific UCF offense. Devin Singletary rushed for 131 yards and three TDs for the Owls, who finished with 320 yards on the ground.
No. 3 Clemson will be without starting linebacker Kendall Joseph against Georgia Tech on Saturday after the senior suffered a groin injury in practice this week.
Tigers coach Dabo Swinney confirmed the injury through a team spokesman Friday.
Joseph is a 6-foot, 235-pound senior who has started 29 games the past three seasons. He has the second-most defensive snaps on the team this year.
Clemson said Joseph will be evaluated next week. Senior backup J.D. Davis is expected to see the bulk of Joseph’s time at linebacker.