CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Illinois football went yard-for-yard with No. 7 Penn State (3-0; 1-0), but five turnovers by the Illini (1-2; 0-1) could not be overcome as they fall Saturday to the Nittany Lions 30-13.
Luke Altmyer was picked off four times by the Penn State defense, as the sophomore quarterback threw for only 163 yards without finding the endzone. Illinois started out on the right foot, driving down the field to begin the game just outside the Nittany Lions’ redzone. Caleb Griffin could not convert a 47-yard field goal that left the Illini empty handed.
“I just tell him to keep his head,” Reggie Love III said of Altmyer’s struggles. “We all have games where we struggle and just moving forward. There’s nothing we can do to change the game now.”
“I just told him it’s part of our process, it’s part of his plan and I just told him we all feel that way and you’re the face of the program, so keep going,” Isaiah Adams said.
The Illinois defense stepped up in a big way to begin the game, holding Penn State to just six points on its first three drives. Lions’ quarterback Drew Allar had an up and down game, finishing 16-33 with 208 yards and no scores. Kaytron Allen and Nicholas Singleton both scored on the ground however.
“I feel like we responded pretty well,” Keith Randoplh Jr. said. “We were put in difficult situations where we were able to get some three and outs. We’re just missing that turnover factor on defense.”
“I feel like our defense played outstanding today,” Love said. “Like I said, we have to go out there and help them. It’s hard when we have five turnovers.”
Love had his best game of the season, running for 55 yards on 12 carries. Josh McCray struggled to get going, ending with a net total of -2 yards on four carries with a fumble.
Once Penn State jumped out to a three score lead, backup quarterback John Paddack entered the game and threw for 126 yards of his own with a touchdown to true freshman Malik Elzy.
“For me as a head coach, it’s always going to be on my shoulders so we didn’t have a good enough game plan for him to be successful and I obviously want him to take these moments and grow,” Bret Bielema said after the game.
The Illini get to stay at home next weekend, as they welcome Florida Atlantic to Memorial Stadium for the final non-conference game of the season. Kickoff is 2:30 p.m. on Saturday.