Illinois stuns No. 7 Penn State in NCAA's first 9-overtime game

STATE COLLEGE (Pa.) -- Illinois overcame Penn State's failed trick play attempt, lost its quarterback, and suffered a devastating running back injury that resulted in only three yards.
Casey Washington was stunned when he finally brought down the winning catch on Saturday.

He said, "I actually cried." It just felt good.

The NCAA's first nine-overtime game saw the Illini win. They beat the seventh-ranked Nittany Lions by 20-18. This was due to Washington's 2-point conversion catch from Brandon Peters. It ended a string of goal-line deadlocks under college football's newly rewritten overtime rules.

After regulation ended at 10, the sides exchanged field goals. In the second overtime, the teams began to alternate one and done drives starting from the 3-yard line in OT 3. This was part of a new format that was tweaked for the 2021 season.

Penn State attempted to win it with a modified version of the "Philly Special", which was used by the Eagles to win Super Bowl LII. Quarterback Sean Clifford, still recovering from an unspecified injury suffered Oct. 9, against Iowa, was wide open at the goal line on trick play but tight end Tyler Warren's pass attempt failed to make it.

Artur Sitkowski, the Illinois Quarterback, missed a receiver on his first attempt. Both defenses held firm through the subsequent four overtimes. Josh McCray was stopped at goal in the seventh overtime after Illinois tried three more incomplete passes.

Clifford was unsuccessful with his next two 2-point attempts, while Noah Cain was exhausted to begin the fifth and seventh overtimes.

Sitkowski, who was normally the backup, was hurt in the sixth OT. Peters replaced him. Peters had been injured and was unable to return. McCray, who ran for 142 yards in 24 carries, was also injured and didn't return. He was pulled down and knocked his helmet off of the grass.

Finally, in OT No. 8: Isaiah Williams ran one in to make Illinois 18-16. Cain then kept the game alive with a 2-pointer.

Linebacker Khalan Tolson stopped Clifford's pass from Parker Washington in the ninth overtime. Peters found Washington at the back of the goal zone, and the win was completed.

Washington stated, "I just had the to hold on for the team."

Washington was surrounded by his teammates when he caught the ball. After a game lasting 4 hours and 11 minutes, others ran to the center field to do cartwheels or backflips. It was a surprising amount of energy.

In 2019, LSU and Texas A&M played seven overtime games that saw the introduction of the 2-point conversion shootout format. Both teams were badly battered. This year, the rule was changed to allow 2-point conversion possessions to begin with the third overtime.

On a wet day at Beaver Stadium, Bullish's backs Chase Brown (second Big Ten) and McCray ran through wide-open spaces and flanked Penn State’s defense for 365 combined rushing yards and one touchdown. James McCourt kicked three field goal, including two 39- and 32 yarders in overtime. The Illini (3-3, 2/3 Big Ten), outgained Penn State 370 yards to 207 during regulation and recovered from an 10-0 deficit.

Bret Bielema, Illinois coach, said that "to see our locker room now is pretty special." They fight for each other."

KeAndre Lambert Smith caught a touchdown pass, and Jordan Stout added three field goals to the Nittany Lions (5-2 and 2-2), who ran only 62 yards and struggled with Clifford.

Brown's 229 yards total led to the Illini tying the game at 10-10 in the fourth quarter. McCourt made a 37-yard field kick for the Illini.

After a sloppy fourth quarter, overtime began. McCourt and Stout matched their kicks before a series of goal line standoffs took the game to unprecedented heights.

James Franklin, Penn State's coach, stated that there were other opportunities on offense and defense as well as special teams where we could have made big plays to win the game.

Clifford sustained an unspecified injury Oct. 9, at Iowa, and did not finish the game. He was able to handle a light workload on Saturday.

After taking a sack on the first series, Clifford was unable to complete nine passes in halftime and took a while to get up to speed. Clifford's offense was able to come together after two poor possessions that lasted only 15 yards over seven plays.

Clifford worked quickly and completed two passes downfield to Jahan Dotson's top target. Then, Clifford fired a bullet to slant KeAndre Lambert Smith for a 42 yard touchdown.

Stout scored a 35-yard field goal for 10-0 at 11:42 in the second quarter.

Brown and McCray led the Illini to run the ball 12 times during a 15-play drive. Brown, who was a yard away, bullied into the end zone and reduced Penn State's lead by 10-7. McCourt scored the tying field goal on a 16-play, 70 yard drive.

This story used information from The Associated Press.