Brandon Peters found Casey Washington for the decisive two-point conversion in the ninth overtime as visiting Illinois upset No. 7 Penn State 20-18 on Saturday in the longest game in FBS history, in terms of overtimes.
Prior to Saturday’s thriller in University Park, Pa., five previous FBS games had reached seven overtimes.
Peters came on in the fifth OT in relief of an injured Artur Sitkowski, who finished with just 38 yards on 8-of-19 passing for Illinois (3-5, 2-3 Big Ten). The Illini also persevered without injured running back Chase Brown, who exited after running for 223 yards and a touchdown.
The game presented itself as a potential trap for Penn State (5-2, 2-2), which lost a heartbreaker to No. 3 Iowa in its last contest and also faces a top-five foe next week in No. 5 Ohio State.
And sure enough, Illinois outplayed Penn State for much of the game. The Illini outgained the Nittany Lions 395-227, converted 9 of 18 third downs (compared to 4 of 17 for Penn State), and held the ball for 36:25 of the 60 minutes in regulation.
Penn State converted a fourth-and-1 on the first possession of overtime and went ahead soon thereafter on Jordan Stout’s 31-yard field goal. On the ensuing possession, Illinois’s third-down trick play was nearly intercepted before James McCourt’s 39-yard field goal evened the score.
The Illini drove to the 4 to begin the second OT before settling for McCourt’s 22-yard field goal. The Nittany Lions then failed to convert a third-and-2 run and, following a false start penalty, Stout drilled a 40-yarder to forge a 16-16 tie.
That sent the contest into a two-point conversion battle. Penn State went first and attempted a wide receiver pass to quarterback Sean Clifford, who couldn’t hang on with the end zone in his sights. Illinois then had the potential winning pass go off the fingertips of Josh McCray, who was open on the play.
To begin the fourth overtime, Sitkowski tried to scramble before deciding late to throw, and it fell incomplete. He injured his left arm on the play. Penn State had a chance to win, but Clifford’s throw into traffic was incomplete.
In the fifth OT, the Nittany Lions’ Noah Cain broke a few tackles but ultimately came nowhere near the end zone. Then Peters threw a bullet into the end zone that was broken up by Ellis Brooks.
Peters got another chance in the sixth OT, but his pass sailed out of the back of the end zone. That gave another opportunity to Penn State, which tried a shovel pass that Brenton Strange caught before getting stood up near the goal line.
Cain opened overtime No. 7 by taking a handoff right to the goal line, but he was ruled short of the end zone. Illinois tried a running play on its turn as well, but McCray lost yardage on the play.
After each team failed on its first five two-point tries, Isaiah Williams caught the go-ahead score for Illinois in the eighth overtime. Cain then took a handoff up the middle for Penn State, plunging into the end zone to tie it 18-18.
Clifford’s pass to begin the ninth overtime was broken up. Peters then found Washington, who held on despite getting drilled on the play, and the Illini players stormed onto the field.
–Field Level Media