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Illinois shocks Penn State in nine overtime preposterousness

The best game on the board today was unforgettable, but not exactly well-played.

Penn State Nittany Lions cornerback Tariq Castro-Fields breaks up a pass intended for Illinois Fighting Illini wide receiver Casey Washington during the first half at Beaver Stadium.  Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

In a football game that will not be forgotten anytime soon, the Illinois Fighting Illini need a record-setting NINE OVERTIMES to upset the No. 7 Penn State Nittany Lions in a 20-18 final on Saturday in Happy Valley, PA.

Because of the new rule implemented beginning with the third overtime as of 2020, both teams combined to go 3-14 on two-point conversions in OT’s 3-9. Despite all the extra football, Penn State had just 227 total yards on 3.6 yards per play. The Illini survived three turnovers to hang on, but weren’t exactly dynamic themselves with 4.5 yards per down and 395 yards of offense.

In terms of periods played, it’s the longest game in the history of the Football Bowl Subdivision. The previous longest was Eli Manning and Ole Miss vs. Arkansas in 2001, which was a seven-OT marathon where both teams snapped it from the 25-yard line instead of the two-yard line every extra period. That was matched in 2018 by LSU and Texas A&M in an unforgettable 74-72 contest, which was the rationale for changing the overtime rules to two-point conversions only after the first two OT’s.

We’re still digging here, but it also might be the longest in NCAA history as well: Bethune-Cookman knocked off Virginia State 63-57 in eight OT’s in 1998.

Lost in the chaos is that Illinois pulled the upset as a 25-point underdog, by far the largest in the Big Ten this season. And somehow in a game with NINE OVERTIMES, the total still came in under: The game closed with a total of 46 at DraftKings Sportsbook.