Those Were The Days - Penn State
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The game Detlef chose here is one of my fonder memories of the last decade. I just refer to it as the Nate Bussey Game. But if I start to tell you my memories of the game, I'm defeating the purpose of Detlef telling you about the game. So I should just let Detlef tell you about the game...
Illinois travels to Penn State for a ghastly encounter the weekend before Halloween. I can't wait for the Penn State zealots to dress up like Joe Paterno. Vomit! Yes, I am still bitter that Penn State is in the Big Ten. Hopefully a repeat performance of the 2010 massive road win is in the cards….
October 9, 2010: Illinois went to Happy Valley a week after a tough, close loss to Ohio State. Illinois had never won at Happy Valley, so the odds of a Fighting Illini win seemed remote. However, Illinois gave notice to the Nittany Lions early in the game that this squad was not the Laydown Illini.
Jack Ramsey returned the opening kickoff to the UI 20 and fumbled (foreshadowing?) but Nate Bussey (foreshadowing!) recovered. On 4th down and 1 from its own 29, UI went for it. Sitting at home, drinking a beer, I liked the call: nothing to lose, all to gain. Fortunately, FEED5 gained a first down on a two-yard run. Although UI eventually punted, it set the tone for the afternoon.
Penn State then punted on its opening drive, but Ramsey fumbled again and Penn State took over at the UI 23. The Nittany Lions drove to the five but the UI defense held PSU to a field goal. Illinois took over on its own 20. Nate Scheelhaase completed two passes to A.J. Jenkins and had a 28-yard run as the UI offense kept the ball going into the second quarter, down 3-0.
At the PSU 18, Scheelhaase found A.J. Jenkins streaking (fully clothed) over the middle. Jenkins leaped into the end zone, giving UI a 7-3 lead. "Thanks to Eddie McGee and the guys blocking downfield, I got the touchdown." The drive took 11 plays and 80 yards and consumed 5:30 off the clock. The teams then exchanged drive, with UI punting to PSU at the 10:51 mark, PSU at its own 16. From there, we had the play of the season and one that arguably saved Ron Zook's job.
On third down and five from the PSU 21, quarterback Rob Bolden dropped back to pass. Linebacker Nate Bussey blitzed untouched from the left side. Bolden telegraphed his throw on a swing pass, but Bussey leaped into the air and batted the ball. He caught it as it came down and strolled into the end zone to give UI a 14-3 lead. For Bussey, playing in front of 20 family members from DC, it felt great. "Today, it seemed like it came down quicker than I thought and I was like, 'Oh, amazing, let me take this in for a touchdown.' ""I have a lot of family members here waiting for me after the game," he said. "It does feel like home, coming back to where I'm from, the East Coast, this always feels like home."
In true Illinois football fashion, the good vibe didn't last long. Bolden suckered the beloved's safeties on play action and completed an 80-yard touchdown pass on the very next play after the kickoff to make the score 14-10 Illinois. But the Fighting Illini fought back. Mikel Leshoure ran for 18, Jason Ford for 12, and Scheelhaase for 5 as Illinois drove to the PSU 34. Derek Dimke nailed a 51-yard field goal for a 17-10 lead with 5:13 left. Illinois forced a PSU three and out. PSU punted to Jack Ramsey at the UI9, who fumbled again! PSU recovered and the pressure was on the UI defense again! On third down at the UI 4, a PSU pass fell incomplete, PSU settled for a field goal and still trailed 17-13. Twice the UI special teams crapped its pants and put the defense in tough spots, but the UI defense held firm.
With 2:43 left in the first half, UI took over at its own 24. FEED5 ran twice for 23 yards. Scheelhaase threw three straight completions for 23 yards, and FEED5 ran for seven yards. Suddenly Illinois was in plus territory. Unsurprisingly, UI failed time clock management and settled for a 31-yard Dimke field goal for a 20-13 halftime lead. Incredibly, PSU had only three first downs but trailed by only seven! BOGGLE!
The UI defense stopped Penn State on the opening drive of the third quarter. Illinois started at its own 32 and promptly ran the ball five straight times and stood at the PSU 23. Scheelhaase again found Jenkins, this time getting to the PSU 9. On third down from the PSU 4, Paul Petrino displayed the riverboat gambler side of his play-calling. Jason Ford took the handoff, stopped, and threw to a wide open Evan Wilson for a 27-13 lead. "It was something we've been repping in practice for a long time," Wilson said. "I was glad he called it." That nine-play 68-yard drive sucked the life out of Beaver Stadium.
Illinois tacked on another drive in the third quarter, 11 plays of 56 yards for another Dimke field goal from 41 yards for a 30-13 lead going into the fourth quarter. Illini Nation could breathe easily in the fourth quarter as the Illini earned its first-ever win at Penn State, 33-13.
Scheelhaase and his teammates went to the northeast corner of the stadium after the game to celebrate with the Illinois fans. His parents sat near the front of the section."I went up and gave them both big hugs," Scheelhaase said. "It's great to have that moment after the game with them. That's something you look forward to."
Scheelhaase had another big day as a runner, gaining 61 yards on eight carries. He also was an efficient 15 of 19 passing for 151 yards and a touchdown. A.J. Jenkins had seven catches for 76 yards and a touchdown. Once again, the Illini run game wore down an opponent, finishing with 282 yards on the ground. FEED5 with 120 yards, Troy Pollard with 55 and Ford with 48.
More importantly, let's give the props to the UI defense. The defense stopped Penn State when the Nittany Lions could have buried the beloved after those special teams gaffes. Illinois held Penn State to just 235 yards of offense and only seven first downs! Martez Wilson played like a man possessed with 12 tackles. "I feel good physically," Wilson said. "I'm good. Mentally, I'm stronger. I'm having fun out there. I feel sometimes I can't be blocked. That's the mentality I have going out."
Sources: "Dad Happy for Scheelhaase" by Bob Asmussen and Marcus Jackson. Champaign News-Gazette: October 4, 2010.
"Martez Wilson: The Comeback Kid" by Bob Asmussen. Id. FightingIllini.com