STATE COLLEGE, PA – The previous record for most overtimes in an NCAA Division one football game was seven overtimes, but that record was broken Saturday as the Fighting Illini battled the Nittany Lions in nine overtimes, ultimately defeating them, 20-18.
The story of the game was the Illinois’s run game. The Illini running back Chase Brown had himself a career day, rushing for 226 total yards on 33 carries and a touchdown. Brown couldn’t be stopped in between the tackles, as he rushed for 6.8 yards per carry.
The health of PSU Sean Clifford had been a question raised by most fans over the past two weeks. Clifford started at quarterback today, but he struggled throughout the game. Clifford was 19 for 34 in pass attempts with 164 yards passing and a touchdown pass. Clifford’s overall health had come into question throughout the contest, when he was slow to get up from the turf after getting sacked four times.
The Penn State offense struggled most of the game, but they did find some success early on in the half. Towards the end of the 1st quarter, Clifford threw the ball deep down the left side of the field in an attempt to get the ball to wide receiver Jahan Dotson. Dotson caught the ball over his shoulders while being surrounded by numerous defenders.
Then Clifford hit wide receiver Keandre Lambert-Smith on a slant route for 42 yards on the very next play to give PSU an early seven point lead (7-0).
On their first drive of the 4th quarter, Illinois scored twice, but had both touchdowns called back due to penalties. The first touchdown was called back for offensive pass interference, while the second was called back for holding. The Illini had to settled for a field goal which tied the game up at 10.
After both teams failed to get into field goal range late in regulation, the game went to overtime.
The Nittany Lions kept the drive going on a crucial 4th-and-1 on their first drive in OT, but failed to get into the end-zone and had to settled for a field goal.
Illinois’ first drive of the game almost ended with an interception, but Penn State safety Jaquan Brisker was not able to come down with the game sealing interception. The Illini was successful on their field goal attempt to take the game into a second overtime.
Both teams had to settle for field goals in the second overtime, with Penn State’s kicker Jordan Stout hitting a 40-yarder to send the game to a third overtime.
The new overtime rules say that if a game reaches a third overtime, each team will take turns running two-point conversion plays until one of the teams is unsuccessful.
Penn State ran a trick play on their first two-point attempt, a lateral pass to Clifford, the ball was a little too short for Clifford and the Lions was unsuccessful. Illinois was unsuccessful in their two-point try, which brought an end to the third overtime period.
The Nittany Lions and Fighting Illini were both unsuccessful on their two point tries for four consecutive overtime periods. Finally, in the record setting 8th overtime period, Illinois quarterback Brandon Peters completed a pass to wide receiver Isaiah Williams to give Illinois their first lead of the game, but Penn State still had their attempt to tie the game back up.
On their 8th overtime attempt, the Nittany Lions finally found some success when Clifford handed the ball to running back Noah Cain, who made his way into the end-zone.
With the game over four hours in, it was only a matter of time until one team would grab the win. PSU failed to punch in it on their 9th overtime attempt, giving the Illini, yet another chance to walk away with a win.
The 9th overtime was the last. Peters found wide receiver Casey Washington wide open in the end-zone to win in a walk off celebration.
Statistically, the Illini was much better than the Nittany Lions in most categories. Illinois finished with 395 total yards compared to Penn State’s 227 total yards.
Illinois converted (9-18) third down attempts, while Penn State only converted (4 -17).
One category that the Nittany Lions won was the turnover battle. The Illini turned the ball over three times, once by interception and twice by fumble, but PSU only turned those miscues into three points.
The schedule only gets harder from here for PSU, who face a challenging game at Ohio State next Saturday night.
Illinois will return home to face Rutgers.