Halftime Thoughts: Penn State 42, Illinois 21

By Matthew Filipovits on December 19, 2020 at 7:17 pm
Dec 19, 2020; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions running back Tank Smith (38) reacts after scoring a touchdown on a punt return during the first quarter against the Illinois Fighting Illini at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports
© Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

Well, that was something! The Nittany Lions and Illinois looked destined for a shootout in the early going, but Penn State has started to pull away. Here are some thoughts on what's been the most exciting game of the year.

  • Jahan Dotson is outstanding. We don't know what his future holds, but make sure you enjoy these next few quarters of him. We may not see him in the Blue and White for much longer.
  • I love the fight from Clifford, but he needs to know when to go down. Unless you are Will Levis, it's not a great idea to just run headfirst into a group of defenders.
  • On that note, Clifford has been pretty darn good airing the ball out. He's completed 13 of his 16 attempts for 262 yards and two scores. The biggest thing may just be that he looks confident when making decisions. That's something we haven't always been able to say.
  • I'm willing to excuse the touchdown following Clifford's fumble. It's hard to keep teams out of the end zone when they start drives on their side of the field. I'm not willing to let the sloppy tackling and poor rush defense (116 yards allowed in one half) go unnoticed though. Win or lose, James Franklin has a decision to make about Brent Pry.
  • Penn State still has kicker problems! Jake Pinegar missed a chip shot late, something he's done from time to time. It won't matter in this one but shoring that up is priority No. 1 for Joe Lorig this offseason.
  • Good for Lamont Wade. His career hasn't gone as planned, but it was great to see him score in his final game in Beaver Stadium.
  • Kirk Ciarrocca has given both Brenton Strange and Theo Johnson a lot of looks. That's a two-tight end set everyone should be excited about.
  • Eight different dudes caught passes in the first half. That's something we only could have dreamt of at the beginning of the season. 
  • KC's offense is starting to find its footing. I get this a bad Illinois team, but that half just felt different. Four different Nittany Lions have found the end zone in the opening half, plus a fifth on special teams with Wade's tuddy.