Hidden Treasures: Penn State-Illinois Football 2005 BSD

We're bringing back Hidden Gems! Some of you long-time BSD readers may remember this series where we reflect on the games we've enjoyed over the years that didn't really live on in Penn State history. We're going to give those games the attention they deserve by reflecting on a variety of memorable (but not too memorable) games from various Nittany Lions teams over the years.

Next up…Penn State rebounds from a devastating (and controversial) loss at Michigan by defeating Illinois on the road.

When it comes to the 2005 football season, there is a lot of discussion about the game against Northwestern (4th-and-15 to Isaac Smolko and Derrick Williams' duck-and-go touchdown reception that took the lead), the game against Minnesota (Michael Robinson hitting Minnesota safety Brandon Owens harder than Owens trying to hit him and Paul Posluszny blocking Gary Russell near the end zone) and of course the legendary game against Ohio State (Williams scoring the game's first touchdown, Calvin Lowry intercepting a pass to build an 11-point lead and Tamba Hali burying the Buckeyes' hopes with a sack of Troy Smith that leads to a fumble recovery by Scott Paxson. However, let's take a look at another important game of the season by traveling to Champaign on October 22nd.

A week earlier, the Nittany Lions suffered a devastating (and controversial) loss at Michigan in the final seconds. The explosive offense had to cope with the loss of Williams for the season with a broken arm. The freshman was the team's best receiver at the time, catching 22 passes for 289 yards, as well as rushing for over 100 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. Fortunately, they were facing an Illinois team that had won just two games and was 0-4 in the Big Ten.

There may have been some concern early in Happy Valley that there would be a hangover in Ann Arbor, as the Illini pulled as far as Penn State's 23-yard line before settling for a 40-yard field goal by Jason Reda. However, Penn State scored the next 63 points. Senior quarterback Robinson showed off both his leadership and passing ability, completing 11 of 18 passes for 194 yards and four passing touchdowns in the first quarter. He also posted 69 rushing yards (good) and two more scores in the first half.

The Nittany Lions calmed down on defense and the defensive line asserted its will. Tamba Hali made his presence felt with this unblocked shot against quarterback Tim Brasic:

The defensive line wasn't the only one making plays. Dan Connor recovered a Brasic fumble (caused by Matt Rice and Tim Shaw) and fought his way to a point, and late in the third quarter Nolan McCready took an Illini pass 77 yards for a pick-six. (Fun fact: ESPN's game report still lists the player as Jordan Norwood, the offensive lineman wearing No. 24.)

While this game is not remembered for its competitiveness, it was a key comeback game from a loss that Penn State used to lead the standings for the rest of the year – something many teams have failed to do after a loss over the last 10 years. This game is a must-see because it put a smile back on Nittany Lions fans' faces after the gloom of the previous week.

Anna Harden

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