Column

The Scoop and Score: There was no better way to end a game than Penn State-Illinois

College football’s overtime rule created an instant classic.

Penn State cornerback Joey Porter Jr. (9) and safety Ji'Ayir Brown (16) chase Illinois wide receiver Isaiah Williams (1) during an NCAA college football game in State College, Pa. on Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021. (AP Photo/Barry Reeger)

“The Scoop and Score” is a column by Eli Kleinmann about college football.

Overtime is the best part of sports; when regulation is not enough time to determine a winner, overtime brings an exciting conclusion to a game.

There is no better overtime than in college football. In a sport defined by high-flying offenses, big plays and crazy comebacks, overtime provides many of the best moments. Creative plays and absolute chaos create unforgettable overtimes.

Unlike the NFL, overtime in college football gives both teams an opportunity to score starting from their opponent’s 25-yard line for the first two overtime periods. If games continue into a third overtime, both teams alternate two-point conversions until a winner is determined.

On Saturday, Illinois and Penn State wrote a new chapter in college football history. The game exemplified everything great about college football, while also driving fans crazy with sloppy play that is commonplace throughout the sport.

For the first four quarters the game was low-scoring and competitive. Neither team was able to take control despite Penn State being favored by 28.5 points and sitting at No. 7 in the AP Poll. Had the game ended on a game-winning field goal, it still would have been an exciting game that fans would have remembered.

Instead, tied 10-10, the game went to overtime and exhilarated fans nationwide as it became the longest game in FBS history.

As is often the case, overtime between Penn State and Illinois will not be remembered for the quality of play on the field. In total, there were nine overtime periods, including the six overtimes that alternated two-point conversions, two crucial drops, 10 incomplete passes, two stops inside the 1-yard line and a total of 18 points scored by the two teams.

It was a game that had fans wanting to pound their heads against the wall, turn the game off and walk away. Yet, they could not look away. Every play was make-or-break, and the pressure of overtime after overtime ratcheted up the intensity. One score from three yards out and a defensive stand from the same distance is all it would take to win the game. A seemingly simple task, but neither team could find the end zone through the first seven overtimes.

Finally, in the eighth overtime, the Fighting Illini scored on a jet sweep and it seemed like they had victory in their grasp. However, Penn State responded with a score of its own, sending the game to a record ninth overtime.

When Penn State failed to score on its ninth attempt, it felt like a tenth overtime was inevitable, but Illinois found the end zone one last time to win an absolute thriller.

Following the game, college football fans spoke out against the new overtime rule. The rule was changed in 2021 to force teams to try alternating two-point conversions starting in the third overtime. Fans said it not only did not fairly determine a winner, but that it was just a miserable game to watch.

Neither team executed to perfection, however, the sloppy play made it impossible to stop watching. The ineptitude by both teams created a game that college football fans will never forget.

The overtime rule is not perfect. By having each team start at its opponent’s 3-yard line,  it does not require teams to march down the field and score, which is how football is regularly played. The new overtime rule accomplishes its main goal — protecting player health — by having them on the field less. Additionally, under this new rule every single play matters.

Having several days to process what went down on Saturday, there is very little debate that it was the game of the weekend simply because of the historic nature. Like the rule or not, it caused the excitement that all college football fans love and the chaos that we have come to expect from a consistently unpredictable sport.

The rule truly encapsulates everything we love about college football. Hopefully it is here to stay.