One big reason I thought the Illini could win for the first time in seven trips to Happy Valley was the maturity and all-around play of their redshirt freshman quarterback, Nathan Scheelhaase.
The young QB was rewarded Monday with his second Big Ten Freshman of the Week, not bad for a five-game career. Scheelhaase completed 15 of 19 passes for 151 yards and a touchdown, and ran for 61 yards on eight carries.
Kicker Derek Dimke, who was 4-for-4 on field goals, shared Big Ten special-teams-player honors with Purdue's Kawaan Short.
Illinois' 0-6 all-time record at Penn State wasn't an added burden, Scheelhaase said.
``We weren't really looking at it,'' he said. ``We were just thinking we needed a win in the Big Ten. Obviously, when you do something like this and make history, it's important for your program, for tradition. The fan base likes to see it.
``But it's something we knew we could do. We knew we could get a win there. We knew it was going to be a crazy environment, and a tough team. But we did a good job of focusing on us all week.''
NOTES: Illinois hopes to have two projected starters back in action at Michigan State on Saturday--cornerback Terry Hawthorne and fullback/tight end Zach Becker, who are both easing back from training-camp foot injuries. Hawthorne made his season debut in mop-up duty at Penn State and Becker could play for the first time this week.
``Hopefully, Terry will be ready to go,'' coach Ron Zook said. ``He played 10 or 12 plays on Saturday. We'll see how he is. And Zach has been cleared by the doctors. It's just a matter of how much he can take, it's kind of up to him. It would be nice if he can go. This is one of those games where we're going to need everybody.''
* Zook said he wants to see how practice goes before deciding on Jack Ramsey's status as a kickoff and punt returner. Ramsey fumbled the opening kickoff at Penn State--Illinois recovered the ball--and was replaced on punt returns, after Illinois lost a pair of early fumbles there.
``We'll see,'' Zook said. ``A week ago, Jack was great. He was catching them with people in his face. It might have shaken him up when he fumbled the opening kickoff.''