Home FQ/CFBHome Team of the Week: Week 8, 2021 — Illinois

FQ/CFBHome Team of the Week: Week 8, 2021 — Illinois

by Mike Ferguson

Photo courtesy of Illinois athletics

It took nine overtimes, but another top-10 team from the Big Ten was upset at home by an unranked opponent this week.

On Saturday afternoon, Illinois found a way to outlast No. 7 Penn State, 20-18. The Fighting Illini converted a 2-point conversion in the ninth overtime period to pull the stunner, 20-18.

As a result of the upset, Illinois earns this week’s distinction of Fifth Quarter/CFBHome Team of the Week:

Finding a Way

Things had not gone swimmingly for Illinois as it made its way to Beaver Stadium as 23.5-point underdogs on Saturday afternoon. The Fighting Illini were just 2-5 and had lost five of six coming in, including a drubbing at the hand of Wisconsin the week prior, 24-0.

For nearly a half, it appeared as though it would be more of the same for Illinois. The Fighting Illini trailed 10-0 early, but found the end zone late in the first half on a touchdown run by Chase Brown. In the fourth quarter, James McCourt connected on a 37-yard field goal to draw Illinois even.

The contest ultimately went into overtime. After exchanging field goals in the first two periods, Illinois’ road to victory appeared to get a little tougher. Quarterback Artur Sitkowski left the game with an injury and Bret Bielema’s team was forced to turn to Brandon Peters.

The teams failed 2-point conversion tries in each of the next five overtime periods. Finally, in the eighth, each was successful.

In the ninth however, Illinois found a way to get a stop and the offense had a chance to win the contest. On the game’s decisive play, Peters rolled right before planting and throwing across the grain. There to haul it in was Casey Washington.

After nine overtimes and an injury to their starting quarterback, the Fighting Illini found a way. It was also Bielema’s 100th career win.

History is Made

The nine overtimes played on Saturday in State College was the most ever for a college football game. One reason for Illinois’ success was the ground attack.

The Fighting Illini finished with 395 total yards to just 227 for Penn State. 357 of those yards for Illinois came on the ground. That was the most allowed by Penn State in more than 25 years.

Brown powered the attack with 223 yards on 33 carries. Joshua McCray added 142 yards on 24 carries.

As for Illinois, Saturday’s victory is its first over a ranked opponent since beating No. 6 Wisconsin in 2019. It was the first road win over a top-10 team for the Fighting Illini since upsetting No. 1 Ohio State in Columbus in 2007.

Up Next

Off back-to-back losses by a combined five points, things don’t get any easier for Penn State. The Nittany Lions will travel to face No. 5 Ohio State on Saturday night.

Now 3-5, Illinois will return home to face Rutgers. That contest begins at 12 p.m. ET and airs on Big Ten Network.

Mike Ferguson is the managing editor for Fifth Quarter. Be sure to follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeWFerguson. Follow all of Mike’s work by liking his Facebook page.