Update: 11:25 p.m.
Penn State announced late Saturday that it will NOT be going to a bowl game, meaning the 2020 season is over. The Nittany Lions finished 4-5 with Saturday’s win over Illinois.
2020 Football Season Concludes
— Penn State Football (@PennStateFball) December 20, 2020
The decision was left up to the players, according to PSU’s release.
The decision to decline a bowl invitation was led by the football student-athletes, and fully supported by Barbour and Franklin.
“Our student-athletes have made tremendous sacrifices this season in order to play the game they love,” said Barbour. “Because of their commitment to our process and protocols, we have remained healthy and are one of two teams in the Big Ten Conference to play in all nine scheduled games. Very few teams have handled playing during the pandemic as well as our program has, which fills me with Penn State pride. Our student-athletes will now have the opportunity for a well-deserved break to enjoy time with their families before returning for the spring semester. I would also like the recognize all of the coaches and support staff members who have also made numerous sacrifices of their own for our student-athletes to compete this fall and moving forward.”
“I couldn’t be more proud and encouraged by how our team conducted itself during this unprecedented season. One of our four core values is a willingness to sacrifice, and our student-athletes, coaches and staff have all made incredible sacrifices both on and off the field in order for us to compete this year,” said Franklin. “This has been a challenging nine months, but we are proud of how our student-athletes have navigated these difficult times. As you know, we rely on our captains and Leadership Council to provide a voice for our team, and our student-athletes made the difficult choice not to participate in a bowl this year in order to spend time with loved ones. We are fully supportive of their decision, knowing it has been many months since our students-athletes have been able to spend time with their families and the challenges they endured, both physically and mentally. This will be an opportunity for our guys to go home, see family and recharge for the spring semester.”
UNIVERSITY PARK — Penn State won its fourth game in a row and put itself in position to earn a bowl bid with a strong showing after a crazy first quarter against Illinois.
The game was tied at 21 after the first quarter, which included one big play after another from both teams, as well as poor defense. But after falling behind 21-14, the Nittany Lions reeled off 42 unanswered points to rout the Illini, 56-21, at Beaver Stadium.
Jahan Dotson had a monster first half that included a 75-yard TD catch on the first play from scrimmage, a 70-yard TD grab and a 50-yard punt return to set up a score. Dotson had 183 yards receiving in the first half and finished with 189.
Sean Clifford was 16-of-22 for 285 yards and two touchdowns, and PSU dominated the game statistically.
Keyvone Lee led the ground game with 85 yards on 19 carries, and he had one TD. Caziah Holmes had 77 yards on 12 carries. He scored the first touchdown of his career in the third quarter and added another in the fourth, both on short runs.
Penn State’s defense gave up 21 points and 199 yards in the first quarter, then shut the Illini out the rest of the way.
The Lions now await their bowl fate, which will be announced today. The team was set to meet in the locker room after the game to decide if it wants to go to a bowl game. There has been no indication that the Lions would opt out of a bowl, as other teams around the country have done.
Illinois finished its season 2-6.
Penn State 56, Illinois 21: Caziah Holmes capped a long drive with a 1-yard TD run with 3:32 to go.
Penn State 49, Illinois 21: Will Levis threw a 7-yard TD pass to Brenton Strange on fourth-and-1 from the 7 with 20 seconds left in the third.
Penn State 42, Illinois 21: Dotson took a short pass to the right and raced through the defense for a 70-yard TD with 3:49 to go in the half.
JAHAN DOTSON: GOOD AT FOOTBALL pic.twitter.com/8wtw0lZqZe
— Barstool Penn State (@PSUBarstool) December 20, 2020
Penn State 35, Illinois: The Lions drove 91 yards for a score, with Keyvone Lee finishing it off on a 1-yard TD run with 5:32 left in the half.
Penn State 28, Illinois 21: Jahan Dotson returned a punt 50 yards to set up first-and-goal at the 10. Caziah Holmes scored from 3 yards out two plays later with 14:04 left in the half.
— Mark Brennan (@MarkXBrennan) December 19, 2020
Penn State 21, Illinois 21: The Lions answered with a 75-yard TD drive, scoring on fourth-and-3 from the 4 when Will Levis barreled into the end zone.
Illinois 21, Penn State 14: Williams hit TE Daniel Barker on a pass to the right side, and he broke through two tacklers on his way to a 38-yard TD.
Penn State 14, Illinois 14: Isaiah Williams raced 64 yards to get into scoring position, and Chase Brown scored on a 12-yard run.
Penn State 14, Illinois 7: Lamont Wade returned the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown.
Did you really think Lamont Wade would leave Beaver Stadium without a touchdown? 🤯🤯 pic.twitter.com/MiNkl89AUk
— Onward State (@OnwardState) December 19, 2020
Penn State 7, Illinois 7: Keaton Ellis picked off a pass deep in PSU territory, but Sean Clifford fumbled on the next play, with Illinois recovering at the Lions’ 15.
Penn State 7, Illinois 0: On the first play from scrimmage, Sean Clifford hit Jahan Dotson on a quick rout, and Dotson raced for a 75-yard TD.
JAHAN DOTSON GOES 75 YARDS ON THE FIRST PLAY OF THE GAME!
— Tyler (@ThroneTyler845) December 19, 2020
Greetings from snowy Beaver Stadium, where it looks like a whiteout crowd here. Check back here throughout tonight’s game for scoring updates, news and notes.
Update: 5:20 p.m.
**Penn State fans do not want Ohio State in the College Football Playoff, as shown in this fan vote on Twitter.
Do Penn State fans want Ohio State in the playoff?
You do realize it’s $6 million for the Big Ten, which splits money up to its members?
— Cory Giger (@CoryGiger) December 19, 2020
Here are some good comments from that Twitter thread:
We need that program to decline more than we need our 450k share.
— Rick Lower (@lowerrick) December 19, 2020
I just don't think they're very good
— Skoal Bandits (@SkoalBandits55) December 19, 2020
So if OSU makes the CFP, do I get the $200 back Sandy stole from me?
— Steve Tuttle (@SteveTu73357179) December 19, 2020
Update: 4:55 p.m.
**Illinois has a whole slew of players out for this game. That’s gonna make things a whole lot tougher for the Illini, who have nothing to play for today, while PSU is looking for a four-game winning streak and bowl berth.
Out at Penn State
DB S. Brown
WR J. Imatorbhebhe
Previously announced out for the season
— Illini Stats & Notes (@IlliniStats) December 19, 2020
**A number of current and former Penn State players graduated today, including former QB Christian Hackenberg. LB Micah Parsons also got his diploma today.
— James Franklin (@coachjfranklin) December 19, 2020
**Illinois has hired former Wisconsin and Arkansas coach Bret Bielema as its new head coach.
Illinois hires former Wisconsin, Arkansas coach Bret Bielema to take over struggling program.
— AP Top 25 (@AP_Top25) December 19, 2020