Football Writers Association of America Oct. 25, 2021
For Immediate Release
Contact: Ted Gangi
Fighting Illini upset Penn State on record 9th overtime possession
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DALLAS (FWAA) – The Illini Fighting Illini ran for 357 yards and outlasted No. 7 Penn State by scoring on their ninth overtime possession in a 20-18 win to earn the Cheez-It Bowl National Team of the Week honor for games of the weekend of Oct. 23, as selected by the Football Writers Association of America.

This is the third time for Illinois (3-5) to earn this honor from the FWAA and first since Oct. 19, 2019, when the Illini stunned Wisconsin on James McCourt's field goal as time expired, 24-23. Saturday, McCourt hit his final three field goal attempts at Penn State, one to tie the game in the fourth quarter and two in overtime to extend the game. All Division I FBS and FCS schools are eligible to be selected.

Chase Brown ran for 223 yards – the most rushing yards allowed by Penn State at Beaver Stadium – for the Illini as part of a ground game that produced those 357 yards. Brown, who scored a second-quarter touchdown on one of his 33 carries, also became the first player to rush for 200 yards vs. the Nittany Lions since the 2003 season (Benjarvus Green-Ellis of Indiana). Josh McCray added 142 rushing yards on 24 carries to help Illinois win despite just 38 passing yards.

Tied at 16 into the third overtime possession that called for both teams to attempt two-point conversions, the teams then combined for 10 straight missed attempts, before each team converted on its eighth extra possession. Then tied at 18, the Illini held Penn State out of the end zone before reserve quarterback Brandon Peters hit Casey Washington for the winning score. Peters had relieved Artur Sitkowski, who was injured during Illlinois' fourth overtime two-point attempt.

"We're not where we need to be, but I'm definitely loving the attitude, the enthusiasm, the energy, they just fight for each other," said head coach Bret Bielema after the game. "And there's one thing that has really come out is just how much they fight for one another." The win in college football's longest game in terms of overtime possessions was the 100th of Bielema's head-coaching career.

This is the 20th season the FWAA will select a national team of the week. Each honored team will receive a custom Cheez-It "care package" along with a hand-crafted game ball made in America by Dallas-based Big Game USA, the nation's leading manufacturer of custom footballs.

The win for Illinois was its first over a ranked opponent since Nov. 10, 2007 at top-ranked Ohio State (28-21). The Illini return home to face Rutgers on Saturday at Noon ET on the Big Ten Network.

The other National Team of the Week nominees for the weekend of Oct. 23 are:

• App State (5-2): Chandler Staton hit a 24-yard field goal as time expired to give the Mountaineers a 30-27 comeback win over No. 14 Coastal Carolina last Wednesday night. App State, which trailed 14-0, had a pair of 100-yard receivers for the third time this season as Malik Williams caught 10 passes for a career-high 206 yards and Corey Sutton added 113 yards on six catches. Chase Brice threw for a career-high 347 yards and two touchdowns and Staton's game-winner was his 55th career field goal, tying Bjorn Nittmo for the school record.

• Iowa State (5-2): Breece Hall scored for from four yards out with 5:29 remaining in the game to propel the Cyclones past previously unbeaten No. 8 Oklahoma State and to a ninth straight Big 12 home win. The Iowa State defense then stopped the Cowboys on a 4th-and-2 with 1:09 left to seal the 24-21 win. Xavier Hutchinson caught a pair of touchdown passes among his career-high 12 receptions for 125 yards.

• NIU (6-2): True freshman Kanon Woodill nailed a 26-yard field goal in the final minute as the Huskies overcame an 18-point deficit to stun Central Michigan, 39-38. After a winless 2020 season (0-6), the Huskies improved to 6-2 and are the lone undefeated team in Mid-American Conference play (4-0). Rocky Lombardi threw for 320 yards on 16-of-26 passing with three touchdowns. Trayvon Rudolph had six catches for 160 yards and two touchdowns, and Tyrice Richie caught eight passes for 147 yards and a score.

Founded in 1941, the Football Writers Association of America consists of journalists, broadcasters, publicists, photographers and key executives in all areas of college football. The FWAA works to govern media access and gameday operations while presenting awards and honors, including an annual All-America team. For more information about the FWAA and its programs and initiatives, contact Executive Director Steve Richardson at 214-870-6516 or

About the Cheez-It Bowl
The Cheez-It Bowl takes place on Wednesday, Dec. 29 at 5:45 p.m. ET in Orlando, Fla. The postseason contest is hosted by Florida Citrus Sports, a Central Florida-based nonprofit, and annually features top teams from the Atlantic Coast and Big 12 Conferences. Cheez-It®, the best-selling cracker brand in the United States, signed on as the game's title sponsor in 2020 as part of its season-long support of college football. Last bowl season, No. 21 Oklahoma State beat No. 18 Miami 37-34 in front of an audience of Cheez-It "Wheel Live Fans." This year's Cheez-It Bowl will be the 32nd edition of the game and its 21st in Orlando.

2021 Cheez-It Bowl National Teams of the Week
• Weekend of Sept. 4: UCLA Bruins
• Weekend of Sept. 11: Arkansas Razorbacks
• Weekend of Sept. 18: Fresno State Bulldogs
• Weekend of Sept. 25: N.C. State Wolfpack
• Weekend of Oct. 2: Cincinnati Bearcats
• Weekend of Oct. 9: Texas A&M Aggies
• Weekend of Oct. 16: Purdue Boilermakers
• Weekend of Oct. 23: Illinois Fighting Illini
• Weekend of Oct. 30: Michigan State Spartans
• Weekend of Nov. 6: TCU Horned Frogs
• Weekend of Nov. 13: Kansas Jayhawks
• Weekend of Nov. 20: Utah Utes
• Weekend of Nov. 27: Michigan Wolverines

Related links:
• All-time FWAA National Teams of the Week
• Download Cheez-It Bowl National Team of the Week logo: .jpg | .eps

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