Illinois Fighting Illini Stay Bowl Eligible in Upset Over Penn State


Just like that, Tim Beckman might keep his job after all. The Illinois Fighting Illini fought and scratched in a defensive struggle all day Saturday, and through some miracle they managed to beat the Penn State Nittany Lions.

It’s not like they weren’t capable of beating Penn State, but the Fighting Illini seemed utterly incapable of handling something like that this year. No worries, though.

Christian Hackenberg has been unreliable all season for Penn State, and he made sure that the same thing would happen on Saturday at Illinois.

Penn State jumped out to a 7-0 lead with a touchdown pass from Hackenberg, but it was Reilly O’Toole, not Wes Lunt, leading the charge for the Fighting Illini on Senior Day.

O’Toole had a touchdown pass in the second half to Matt LaCosse, and a David Reisner field goal made it 10-7 going into the fourth quarter.

A 47-yard touchdown run by Akeel Lynch gave Penn State a 14-10 lead in the fourth quarter, but then Reisner nailed two field goals.

The last one was a 36-yarder that gave the Fighting Illini the lead with 10 seconds left.

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Illinois is now 5-6 and in great position to reach a bowl game.

A game at Northwestern next week will be tough since the Wildcats are also 5-6 and will be looking to make a bowl game. But midway through the season, Beckman was dead in the water. Now, once again he has shown modest improvement with his team. From 2-10 to 4-8 to 5-6, Illinois looks like it has a solid program being built slowly.

And a win against Northwestern would do wonders to sell that fact.

Penn State, meanwhile, fell to 6-5 and still has a game at home against Michigan State, but this is James Franklin’s first year. For the Nittany Lions, recruiting and building back the depth that was lost after the Jerry Sandusky scandal is what is most important, and that would not have happened this year.

Give this team a year or two, and they’ll be back.

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