Saturday's Big Ten: Illinois stuns No. 7 Penn State in NCAA's first nine-OT game
State College, Pa. — Over the course of an unprecedented nine overtimes, Illinois survived Penn State’s botched attempt at a trick play, lost its quarterback and a powerful running back to injury, and failed to gain just three measly yards again and again.
When Casey Washington finally came down with the winning catch Saturday, he hardly knew what to do.
“I actually cried,” he said. “It just felt good.”
The Illini came out victorious in the NCAA’s first ever nine-overtime game, edging the seventh-ranked Nittany Lions, 20-18, on Washington’s 2-point conversion catch from former Wolverine Brandon Peters to end a string of goal-line stalemates under college football’s recently rewritten overtime rules.
The sides were tied at 10 after regulation, exchanged field goals in the first two overtimes, then began to alternate one-and-done drives from the 3-yard line in the third OT as part of a format tweaked ahead of the 2021 season.
Penn State tried to win it then and there with a variation of the famed “Philly Special” play the Eagles used to win Super Bowl LII. Quarterback Sean Clifford — still suffering from an unspecified injury sustained Oct. 9 against Iowa — was wide open near the goal line on the trick play, but tight end Tyler Warren’s pass attempt missed its mark.
Quarterback Artur Sitkowski missed a receiver on Illinois’ first try, and both defense held firm for the four OTs that followed. Illinois attempted three more passes that fell incomplete, and Josh McCray was stopped at the goal line in the seventh overtime.
Meanwhile, Clifford missed his next two 2-point passes while Noah Cain was stuffed to start the fifth and seventh overtimes.
Sitkowski — normally the backup — was injured in the sixth OT and replaced by Peters, the regular starter who had been sidelined by injury. McCray, who had 142 yards on 24 carries, also left and didn’t return after being pulled down and slamming his helmet off the grass.
Finally in OT No. 8, Isaiah Williams ran one in to put Illinois up 18-16, only to have Cain keep the game alive with a 2-point run of his own.
In the ninth OT, Clifford’s pass to Parker Washington was broken up by linebacker Khalan Tolson. Peters then found Washington near the back of the end zone for the winning completion.
“I just had to hold onto it for the team,” Washington said.
When Washington caught the ball, his teammates piled on him. Others ran to center field to cartwheel or do backflips — surprising energy after a game that lasted 4 hours, 11 minutes.
The 2-point conversion shootout format was introduced in 2019, the season after LSU and Texas A&M played a seven-overtime game that left both teams badly beaten up. The rule was tweaked this year, with the 2-point conversion possessions beginning with the third overtime instead of the fifth.
Bullish backs Chase Brown and McCray blasted through wide-open holes and flanked Penn State’s defense for a combined 365 rushing yards and a touchdown and James McCourt kicked three field goals, including 39- and 32-yarders in overtime, on a soggy day at Beaver Stadium. The Illini (3-5, 2-3 Big Ten) outgained the Nittany Lions 370 yards to 207 in regulation and battled back from an early 10-0 deficit.
“To see our locker room right now is pretty special,” Illinois coach Bret Bielema said. “They fight for one another.”
KeAndre Lambert-Smith caught a touchdown pass and Jordan Stout added three field goals for the Nittany Lions (5-2, 2-2), who ran for just 62 yards and struggled to protect a banged-up Clifford.
Led by Brown’s 229 total yards, the Illini tied it 10-10 early in the fourth quarter with a 37-yard field goal from McCourt.
A sloppy fourth quarter gave way to overtime where McCourt and Stout matched each others’ kicks before a string of goal line standoffs pushed the game into unprecedented territory.
“We had other opportunities on offense, defense and special teams that we could’ve made big plays to end the game and we did not,” Penn State coach James Franklin said.
Clifford suffered an unspecified injury on Oct. 9 at Iowa and didn’t finish that game. He handled a light workload early Saturday.
The third-year starter attempted just nine passes in the first half and was slow to get to his feet after taking a sack on his first series. After two lackluster possessions and just 15 yards on seven plays, Clifford was able to rally his offense on its third try.
Working quickly, Clifford completed two straight passes downfield to top target Jahan Dotson, then fired a bullet to slanting KeAndre Lambert-Smith for a 42-yard touchdown.
Stout added a 35-yard field goal to make it 10-0 with 11:42 to play in the second quarter.
Led by Brown and McCray, the Illini ran the ball 12 times on a 15-play drive that ended when Brown bulled into the end zone from a yard out and cut Penn State’s lead to 10-7. Another 16-play, 70-yard drive led to McCourt’s tying field goal.
More Big Ten
► No. 5 Ohio State 54, (at) Indiana 7: C.J. Stroud threw four touchdown passes and TreVeyon Henderson scored three times in Ohio State’s blowout victory over Indiana.
The Buckeyes (6-1, 4-0) have won five straight overall, 25 in a row against conference foes including championship games and 27 straight against the Hoosiers — the longest active streak against a single opponent in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Ohio State also has won an FBS-leading 12 consecutive true road games and extended its conference record with a 15th straight double-digit road win against a league foe.
After Henderson broke a 7-all tie with a 21-yard TD run late in the first quarter, the short-handed Hoosiers (2-5, 0-4) never had a chance. Ohio State scored the final 37 points of the first half and coach Ryan Day pulled his starters after three quarters.
Quarterback Jack Tuttle replaced injured Indiana starter Michael Penix Jr. for the second straight week but didn’t last long. Tuttle left after appearing to injure his right foot while capping Indiana’s opening possession with a 7-yard TD pass to Peyton Hendershot.
Stroud was 21 of 28 for 266 yards. Henderson ran nine times for 81 yards and two scores, all in the first half.
► Wisconsin 30, (at) No. 25 Purdue 13: Chez Mellusi ran for 149 yards and a touchdown and Braelon Allen had 140 yards and two scores to help Wisconsin beat Purdue.
Mellusi and Allen both had career highs for yards, with Mellusi carrying 27 carries and Allen 12 for the Badgers (4-3, 2-2), who have won 15 straight against Purdue.
The Boilermakers (4-3, 2-2) took a 13-10 lead on defensive end George Karlaftis’ 56-yard fumble return with 6:13 left in the second quarter.
John Torchio intercepted Aidan O’Connell’s pass and returned it 37 yards to the 1. However, Mellusi was stopped for no gain and quarterback Kendric Pryor had a 3-yard loss on third down. Collin Larsh made a 23-yard field goal to tie it at 13.
The Badgers took the lead for good at 20-13 on Mellusi’s 20-yard run. Allen’s 70-yard run set up the touchdown, putting the ball on the 24.
Wisconsin pushed it to 27-13 on Allen’s 14-yard run early in the fourth quarter. Larsh added a 43-yard field goal.
► (At) Minnesota 34, Maryland 16: Freshmen Ky Thomas and Mar’Keise Irving became the fourth and fifth different 100-yard rushers for Minnesota this season, as the Gophers gained 326 yards on the ground en route to their third straight victory.
Thomas (21 carries, 139 yards) and Irving (15 carries, 105 yards) each had one of four rushing touchdowns for Minnesota (5-2, 3-1), which moved into a first-place tie with Iowa in the Big Ten West Division. Purdue and Wisconsin are one game back.
Taulia Tagovailoa lost a fumble on the opening drive and completed 17 of 27 passes for 189 yards and a late touchdown to Marcus Fleming for the Terrapins (4-3, 1-3), who have lost three straight games by a combined score of 151-49.
Tanner Morgan went 8 for 12 for 125 yards passing, and backup quarterback Cole Kramer rushed for 30 yards and a touchdown. The Gophers didn’t punt until 5:09 remained in the game.