Halftime analysis: Penn State 21, Illinois 0

September, 29, 2012
9/29/12
1:50
PM ET
Bill O'Brien and Tim Beckman didn't shake hands before the game.

The specter of the Illinois coaching staff stepping on Penn State's campus shortly after the sanctions in hopes of poaching a few players still doesn't seem to be sitting easy with the Nittany Lions. As a result, Penn State appears to be playing angry and has roughed up Illinois' offense so far in a 21-0 first half.

Outside of a 52-yard run, Illinois has gained just 135 yards. And mistakes have further hurt the Illini.

Penalties and turnovers defined Illinois on the game's first three drives and led to two Penn State touchdowns. And, on its last play of the half, Illinois threw an interception that was nearly returned for a touchdown.

Stat of the half: 18:10. Time of possession for PSU. The Nittany Lions have controlled the clock and might be wearing the Illinois defense down. PSU is trying to establish the run, and that's shown on the clock.

Player of the half: Michael Mauti. He was just two yards from returning an interception 99 yards for a touchdown at the end of the half. He also contributed to the critical Illinois fumble on the punt return and hasn't taken a play off on defense. He helped stop a fouth-and-1 QB sneak by Nathan Scheelhaase, and he made a strong stop on Illinois' second punt. He's basically a lock to lead Penn State in tackles every week.

What's working: Capitalizing on opportunities. The Nittany Lions have routinely struggled finishing drives when they get into opponents' territory, but they've capitalized on three in this first half. The offense has sputtered, but it still scored on three of the six times it found itself on Illinois' end of the field. Not great, but still good for PSU.

What's not working: Illinois special teams. It muffed a punt, ran into the kicker and missed a 26-yard field goal. Nearly everything that could go wrong has gone wrong for the Illini. Even its punt team allowed a long return by Evan Lewis.

Making his return: Bill Belton got the starting nod today after he fell to the turf with an ankle sprain in the second half of Week 1. He has 10 carries for 36 yards and is PSU's only home-run threat running the ball.

Call of the half: On a second-and-8 play from the Illinois' 21, O'Brien decided to open up the playbook and delineate from Penn State's short-pass identity in the first half. McGloin found Matt Lehman about 18 yards downfield, and the tight end put his head down and rumbled three more yards for the score. That call put Penn State up 21-0.

Josh Moyer | email

Penn State/Big Ten reporter

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