CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WHTM) – No. 7 ranked Penn State is 2-0 heading into its three-game slate against Big Ten opponents, which begins with the Illinois Fighting Illini on Saturday, Sept. 16.
The Nittany Lions dominated against Delaware on Sept. 9, downing the Fightin’ Blue Hens 63-7. Quarterback Drew Allar went 22-for-26 in pass attempts for 204 yards with one touchdown.
Running back Kaytron Allen led the rushing game with 19 rushes for a total gain of 103 yards for the Lions, while Nichols Singleton posted 52 rushing yards with three touchdowns for Penn State.
On defense, linebacker Abdul Carter and defensive tackle Zane Durant each had four total tackles and Durant had one of four Nittany Lions sacks.
Now Penn State will head to its first away game of the season to open conference play.
Illinois is 1-1 heading into the Penn State showdown. They defeated Toledo in their season opener before falling to Kansas on Friday, Sept. 8.
Last season Illinois finished second in the Big Ten West Division with an overall 8-5 record, going 5-4 in conference play. The Fighting Illini competed in the Relia Quest Bowl, falling to No. 22 Mississippi State.
Illinois is under the guidance of Head Coach Bret Bielema, who’s in his third season leading the program. Bielema has a 25-year college football coaching resume, coaching at Wisconsin and Arkansas before becoming the 26th Fighting Illini head coach. Bielema led Illinois to its first-ever College Football Playoff rankings.
Illinois added a new quarterback this season, naming Mississippi transfer Luke Altmyer the starter. Last season the sophomore played in four games with Mississippi during his redshirt season, starting in one at quarterback. Altmyer went 8-for-17 in passes with 125 yards and two touchdowns and added one rushing touchdown.
Altmyer is currently averaging a 68.55% pass completion percentage and has two rushing touchdowns with three passing touchdowns.
Key players that returned for Illinois include defensive lineman Keith Randolph, linebackers Seth Coleman and Tarique Barnes, receivers Isaiah Williams and Casey Washington and kicker Caleb Griffin.
Last time out
Illinois fell to Kansas on Friday 34-23. Altmyer had two rushing touchdowns, one of which was a 72-yard run which was the second-longest rushing touchdown by a quarterback in the school’s history.
Altmyer went 19-for-28 in passing for a 67.9% completion percentage for 202 yards and one touchdown.
Williams had six catches for 99 yards to lead the Fighting Illini. Junior tight end Griffin Moore put up four catches for 56 yards, which were both career highs for Moore.
Sophomore defensive back Xavier Scott posted the first interception of his career in the loss and Jer’Zhan Newton had his first sacks of the season with two.
Illinois was not able to overcome Kansas who shut down Illinois early, ending the first quarter ahead 14-0. Kansas led the entire matchup.
Penn State owns a 20-6 record over Illinois dating back to 1954. The last time these two teams met resulted in a historical nine-overtime loss for the Nittany Lions. The game ended in a nail-biting 20-18 victory for Illinois. That game was the first and only FBS game to ever go to nine overtimes.
Before that historic defeat, Penn State was on a three-game winning streak against Illinois. The teams have not met since that matchup.
Penn State will be looking to remain undefeated for the season and get revenge for the infamous overtime loss while Fighting Illini will try to ensure they walk away with a positive record.