The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local Sports

November 1, 2013

Lions try to move on against Illini

STATE COLLEGE — Penn State is ready to move on from one of the worst losses in program history.

The Nittany Lions, of course, have little choice.

It’s time for the next game on the schedule, and that means they have to prepare for Illinois (3-4, 0-3 Big Ten) today. Ohio State’s 63-14 win over the Nittany Lions (4-3, 1-2) was a setback for a team coming off an emotional four-overtime win against undefeated Michigan. Much like the Nittany Lions couldn’t build off that victory, they can only hope their epic defeat doesn’t linger into today at Beaver Stadium.

“We talk to our guys all the time about 12 one-game seasons,” coach Bill O’Brien said. “So we try to separate it that way. We go week to week, and we try to make sure that the kids understand, OK, on Monday, when they come in, let’s review some of the tape from the previous Saturday’s game, but also, boom, that game is over as soon as we’re done, and we focus on the task at hand.”

The Illini certainly understand the pressures that come with trying rebound from a big loss. Michigan State rolled to a 42-3 win last week and Illinois has lost all three Big Ten games by at least 20 points.

O’Brien has a knack for getting the Nittany Lions to understand the big picture – they haven’t lost two straight games since an 0-2 start last season.

With both teams needing a confidence boost for the final weeks of the Big Ten season, here are five things to look for when they face off for the 21st time.   

Rough week for Scheelhaase: If Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase’s week wasn’t bad enough after the 39-point loss to Michigan State – in which the Illini managed just 128 yards – it certainly got worse. Scheelhaase’s father, Nathan Creer, was arrested during the game over what police said was a fight in Memorial Stadium. University police then banned the former Iowa Hawkeye defensive back from campus for a year.

Scheelhaase didn’t say much about the incident, but the fifth-year senior sounded relieved to have another football game ahead to think about.

“You know there’s going to be different distractions throughout your career,” he said, “and the best thing I have is a bunch of people in here who are focused on this next game, focused on what we need to do every day.”

Bowl game hopes? Not much about Illinois’ loss to the Spartans suggested the Illini are a bowl team, but players and coaches said this week that getting to a bowl remains a realistic goal.

“We’ve got five games left in the Big Ten season. And all of those are winnable games,” senior linebacker Jonathan Brown said. “There’s definitely still potential for a bowl game.”

Illinois’ last bowl appearance was in 2011, a 20-14 win in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl that put a winning finish on what had been a bizarre season. Both teams’ coaches – Ron Zook at Illinois and the Bruins’ Rick Neuheisel – had just been fired, Zook after his team opened 6-0 but then lost six straight.

Belton hits: Penn State running back Bill Belton was about the only positive on offense against Ohio State, rushing for 98 yards and starting to separate himself a bit out of the backfield. Zach Zwinak’s fumbling woes have opened the door for more carries for Belton and, so far, the former wide receiver has made the most of his added playing time. He led the charge in the fourth overtime against Michigan and scored the winning touchdown.

“He’s a much-improved player, he really is,” O’Brien said. “He’s more patient in the running game. I think he understands how to watch film better. I think he’s a better teammate. I think he’s a smarter player.” Belton leads the Nittany Lions with 467 yards rushing on 92 carries (5.1), and has three touchdowns.”

Look out: Belton might want to avoid Illinois linebacker Jonathan Brown. He leads the Big Ten with 76 tackles and ranks 10th in the nation at 10.9 tackles per game. He is trying to become the first Illini player to lead the conference in tackles since Brit Miller in 2008. He was a member of preseason watch lists for the Butkus Award, Bednarik Award and Nagurski Trophy.

Steel curtain: O’Brien has a fondness for Pittsburgh area recruits. Mike Hull, Miles Dieffenbach, Adam Gress, Jesse Della Valle all come with a certain kind of toughness that the second-year coach likes out of his players. “I just really like that city, and I like the guys on our team that come from that city,” he said. “And I think those guys are very tough guys that love playing for Penn State.”

Great. But what about another city on the other side of the state? “I don’t want to imply that Philadelphia guys aren’t” tough, he said.


Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local Sports
  • Pirates 0417 Pirates power past Brewers

    Andrew McCutchen hit his first homer of the season and drove in three runs, Pedro Alvarez had a three-run shot and pinch-hitter Josh Harrison broke a tie with a long ball in the seventh inning as the Pittsburgh Pirates handed the Milwaukee Brewers their first road loss, 11-2 on Thursday night.
    Harrison’s two-run drive down the left field line off Rob Wooten (0-1) was the second of his career as a pinch hitter.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Penguins 0417 Jackets preparing for Game 2

    The Columbus Blue Jackets don’t feel they’re doomed after blowing a two-goal lead in a Game 1 loss of their first-round Stanley Cup playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
    “It’s not about missed chances, or feeling sorry about it,” goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky said at Thursday’s optional workout, 13 hours after falling 4-3 in Pittsburgh.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Local Sports Briefs

    April 17, 2014

  • racin 0416 Jennerstown Speedway gearing for May open

    Jennerstown Speedway released a very ambitious schedule on its website and continues to prepare for its 2014 reopening.
    The track is set to hold a practice day for drivers as well as an open house and media day on April 26.

    April 16, 2014 2 Photos

  • ‘Hawks already building toward next season

    Jason Spence used up his cell phone’s battery on a trip from Johnstown to his parents’ home in Nova Scotia, Canada.
    Once the Johnstown Tomahawks coach got to his destination, Spence had to get creative to secure cell service across the border.

    April 16, 2014

  • Pirates 0416 Dominant Cueto drops Pirates in matinee

    That playoff loss in Pittsburgh last year? Johnny Cueto never thought about it much. So getting a chance to shut out the Pirates in a rematch wasn’t any more special.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Penguins 0416 Penguins rally to wear out Jackets

    Brandon Sutter scored on a wrist shot from the left circle 8:18 into the third period, helping the Pittsburgh Penguins rally for a 4-3 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals on Wednesday night.
    Beau Bennett and Matt Niskanen scored power-play goals 45 seconds apart in the second period, erasing Pittsburgh’s two-goal deficit.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Shelley and McElligot Series serves as reunion for former Chiefs personnel

    Not so long ago, Bob McElligott, like most Western Pennsylvania hockey fans, would savor a long Pittsburgh Penguins playoff run.
    The Somerset native followed the Pens’ Stanley Cup-winning teams in 1991 and 1992.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Malkin nearing return

    The Columbus Blue Jackets are the closest NHL team to the Pittsburgh Penguins, at least geographically. The two franchises are separated by 185 miles of highway.

    April 15, 2014

  • Reds swing way past Pirates

    Mike Leake doubled and hit a two-run homer Tuesday night, ending Gerrit Cole's winning streak and leading the Cincinnati Reds to a 7-5 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates that completed two days full of homers and delays.
    First, the NL Central rivals completed a game that was suspended in the sixth inning because of rain the previous night.

    April 15, 2014

AP Video
Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest Police Arrest Suspect in Highway Shootings Drought Concerns May Hurt Lake Tourism Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home Calif. Investigators Re-construct Fatal Bus Cras Mayor Rob Ford Launches Re-election Campaign Appellate Court Hears Okla. Gay Marriage Case Author Gabriel Garcia Marquez Dead at 87 Beau Biden Plans 2016 Run for Del. Governor Chelsea Clinton Is Pregnant Horseless Carriage Introduced at NY Auto Show Obama Hopeful on Ukraine, Will Watch Russians Flamingo Frenzy Ahead of Zoo Construction Crew Criticized Over Handling of Ferry Disaster Agreement Reached to Calm Ukraine Tensions Raw: Pope Francis Performs Pre-easter Ritual Boston Bombing Survivors One Year Later Sister of Slain MIT Officer Reflects on Bombing

Do you think that Jack Williams will get the 270 signatures from city residents needed in order to have a referendum placed on a municipal ballot to have the city's pressure test mandate repealed?

I'm not sure
     View Results
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide