Illinois took down No. 7 Penn State on the road for the first big win of Bret Bielema's tenure. And the Illini made a phenomenal case for bringing ties back to college football in the process.
The Illini defeated Penn State in a nine-overtime — yes, NINE overtimes — stunner on Saturday. It took 60 minutes of regulation, two normal overtime periods, then seven exchanges of two-point conversion attempts for Illinois to notch the 20-18 win.
By number of overtimes, it was the longest game in NCAA history.
ILLINOIS UPSETS NO. 7 PENN STATE IN THE NINTH OVERTIME‼️
That’s the most overtimes in FBS history 😳 pic.twitter.com/uKlOg9Sd6j
— ESPN (@espn) October 23, 2021
All told, the two teams combined to score 18 points total in nine periods of overtime.
Penn State had the win in its hands in the first go-around of overtime, but Jaquan Brisker dropped what looked like an easy interception on third down for Illinois. Both teams ended up exchanging field goals for the first two overtime periods, leading to an exchange of two-point conversions after that due to NCAA rules.
The first exchange saw both teams passing for the win ... and both teams dropping the game-winner. It wasn't the best football. Even more drama hit in the fourth round of overtime, as Illinois quarterback Artur Sitkowski rolled right and landed hard on his wrist after another pass fell incomplete.
Sitkowski exited the game with a clear wrist injury, while Penn State missed its next two attempts. Illinois brought in Brandon Peters under center, but the result didn't change. Another incomplete Illinois pass sent the game to a sixth overtime. That was followed by a seventh overtime after both teams again failed to score. Then an eighth, where, finally, someone reached the end zone. Both teams, in fact, meaning nine overtimes.
And, finally, someone won.
NCAA rule change opened door for preposterous OT
The funny part about a game reaching nine overtimes this year is that the NCAA was probably trying to avoid such results when it changed the rules for overtime earlier this year.
Previously, teams were required to go for two-point conversions after every touchdown in triple overtime and quadruple overtime, then exchange two-point conversions starting in quintuple overtime. The NCAA changed it so teams had to go for two after touchdowns in the second overtime, then exchange two-point attempts in triple overtime and beyond.
The rule change resulted in fewer plays being run by both teams in overtime, but you can hardly say it was any less stressful.
How Illinois-Penn State reached overtime
Illinois wasn't far from taking the game in regulation, as a stalled-out Penn State drive resulted in the Illini getting the ball back with 27 seconds left. A few quick plays got them to their own 42-yard line with 13 seconds left, but they never came close to field goal range.
Neither team found the end zone in the second half of a dreary day at State College. Sitkowski finished regulation with only 30 passing yards, while Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford, coming off a mid-game exit two weeks ago against Iowa, didn't exactly look 100%.
While the overtime periods were defined by passing failures, and finally a success, it was a historically prolific game on the ground for Illinois. Bielema's squad finished with a school-record 67 carries for 357 yards, led by Chase Brown's 223 yards and touchdown.