The good and the bad from Penn State's 35-7 win over Illinois on Saturday:
1. Improved offensive line: Against the best defensive line it's seen so far this season, Penn State played its best game. The Nittany Lions' O-line was able to open holes early and get the running game established. PSU finished with 173 yards on the ground and forced enough push up-front to help Matt McGloin to a pair of rushing TDs.
2. Defense's third-down conversion rate: In the first 55 minutes of the game, Illinois converted just 1-of-12 third downs. This has been the defense's weakness, mainly because of the secondary. But, on Saturday, Penn State shored up the middle of the field and wasn't afraid to bring pressure when it needed to. Ted Roof's defense might have turned a corner with this game.
3. Michael Mauti: Individual players normally don't find themselves on "3 Up, 3 Down" -- but individuals usually don't have the games Mauti had, either. The senior linebacker has established himself as the best in the Big Ten, if not the nation. He finished with two interceptions, a forced fumble and half a sack. He was all over the field Saturday and even helped stop Illinois QB Nathan Scheelhaase on a critical fourth-and-1 play. This was a breakout game for Mauti, a player who -- believe it or not -- is coming off a torn ACL from last season.
1. More woes on the field-goal unit. Sam Ficken missed another two field goals, but it wasn't entirely his fault. One attempt, 47 yards, was out of his range and the other -- an 18-yard attempt -- was deflected because of the unit's off-kilter blocking or a high snap. Still, this group has missed two extra points and two field goals shorter than 25 yards this season. This unit will be a concern throughout the season and this unit has made a mistake in virtually every game.
2. Allowing big plays. Overall, the defense played well -- but allowed five plays longer than 20 yards. It was able to overcome that, but it has to get that kind of play under control in the future. When the secondary pressed in the first quarter, Illinois tailback Donovonn Young ran untouched for a 52-yard gain.
3. Not airing the ball out. Penn State played it pretty conservative early on and, if it wasn't for some Illinois mistakes, it could have sputtered a lot more. McGloin played relatively well, and he spread the ball around -- but Penn State had just one play that went farther than 20 yards. PSU will need to air the ball out against other opponents to keep the defenses honest. It worked this time, but it has to be careful in the future.