STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Christian Hackenberg hit Kyle Carter with a 15-yard touchdown pass in overtime and Ryan Keiser sealed the win with an end zone interception, lifting Penn State over Illinois 24-17 on Saturday.
Bill Belton rushed for 202 yards, the first Nittany Lion (5-3, 2-2 Big Ten) to hit the 200-yard mark since Larry Johnson in 2002.
Penn State’s Sam Ficken kicked a 35-yard field goal with 41 seconds left in regulation, sending the game into OT.
Hackenberg, who threw for 240 yards, zipped a perfect pass over the middle to Carter for the winner.
Nathan Scheelhaase’s first pass of OT was picked off by Keiser. With a strong second half, Scheelhaase rallied the Illini (3-5, 0-4) back from a 14-0 first-half hole to give them the lead.
Both teams were coming off blowout losses: Penn State was crushed 63-14 at Ohio State and Michigan State thumped the Illini 42-3.
Under coach Bill O’Brien, the Nittany Lions haven’t lost two straight games since their 0-2 start last season.
Scheelhaase did his best to end that streak.
He was strong when needed on Illinois’ late fourth-quarter drive. He eluded pressure on a 12-yard scramble to the 36. With Illinois facing third-and-10, Penn State called its last timeout. Scheelhaase then hit Jon Davis for a 9-yard gain and completed the drive with a 7-yard TD pass to Josh Ferguson for a 17-14 lead.
Penn State tried to pull off the comeback in much the same way it beat undefeated Michigan in a four-overtime thriller last month. Hackenberg’s sideline heave was caught by Allen Robinson for a 39-yard gain. Robinson, who caught 11 passes for 165 yards, had one foot in bounds and an incomplete call was reversed on review.