Saturday, September 27, 2008

Not-So-Happy Visit to the Valley

Ron Zook had his team ready to play when they got to Happy Valley. And play they did. There's no shame in playing a good game and losing to a better team, and that's what happened to the Illini.

There was a lot to like in the play of the Illini.

Missed tackles hurt, as did penalties, though there were fewer flags tonight than two weeks ago. And despite the miscues, the Illini defense put QB Daryll Clark under the most pressure he had faced to date. The fumble recovery was a highlight, as well. Juice limited his interceptions to just one, and he passed well.

The Illini showed they can play with anyone. They made mistakes that could have been avoided to allow them to win, but they needed a nearly flawless game tonight. Penalties killed their 3rd drive of the game, and they were on the short side of the turnover margin. Penn State was able to move the ball almost at will. And the missed field goal hurt, as well. But they played with Penn State, who proved they are a pretty good team on a day when 4 ranked teams lost at home.

The officials deserve credit for calling a fair game and using replay appropriately. They made the right calls, though it was hard to give up that first potential fumble.

While the loss was disappointing, the game itself was fun to watch -- an offensive shootout with big plays on both sides. The visit to Happy Valley could have been happier, but given the Penn State performances to date, it could have been worse. The Illini have lots to build on...


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