Little passing, little scoring, and some history provided this contest between Illinois and Penn State with some interesting stats — many of them showing how awful a loss this was for the Nittany Lions. Let’s take a look at some of the numbers that defined this game.
9: Four quarters — plus nine overtimes. This was the longest game in FBS history, and Penn State and Illinois made history in the process. They played the most overtime periods ever in a college football game. The previous high was seven, which happened five times — and those games weren’t low-scoring affairs. Both teams scored at least 50 points each in all five of those seven overtime contests.
38: The Fighting Illini didn’t pass the ball well, accumulating only 38 passing yards for the entire contest. Only two other teams have recorded fewer passing yards in a win over an AP top-10 opponent: UCLA against Texas in 2010 (27 yards) and Florida against Georgia in 2014 (27 yards).
25.5: According to Caesars Sportsbook, Penn State closed as 25.5-point favorites against Illinois. Since the FCS/FBS split in 1978, there was only one other time the Nittany Lions lost a game after closing as 20-plus-point favorites — last season against Maryland.
357: Illinois pounded Penn State on the ground, rushing for 357 yards Saturday afternoon. That is historically unusual for the Nittany Lions’ defense. In fact, Penn State surrendered more rushing yards only twice: in 1997 vs. Michigan State (452) and in 2013 vs. Ohio State (408).
Oct. 23: Not only is it the date Illinois and Penn State participated in the longest game in college football history, but Oct. 23 also has additional historical significance for both teams.
On Oct. 23, 1999, the Fighting Illini beat No. 9 Michigan, led by then-Wolverines quarterback and now seven-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady. It was a big win, as Illinois had to come back from a 27-7 deficit in the third quarter to claim victory.
Why does that matter? Well, Saturday’s win over Penn State was Illinois’ first road win over an AP top-10 team.
This date lives in infamy for Nittany Lions fans, however. On this day in 2004, Penn State lost a game to Iowa 6-4. It was eerily similar to Saturday’s game against Illinois — minimal points and a slugfest on the field.
1: Usually, in football, teams that win the turnover battle and stop their opponent’s passing attack get the victory — but that wasn’t the case for Penn State Saturday. The Nittany Lions became the first team over the past 10 years to win the turnover battle by three or more and hold its foe to less than 2 yards per pass attempt, but still end up losing.
ESPN Stats & Information contributed to this story.