75F Beaver Stadium, University Park, PA
A sixth consecutive win last weekend moved Penn State coach Joe Paterno within one of becoming the all-time leader in Division I history.
While that accomplishment is on the minds of most everyone else, the 84-year-old Hall of Famer seems more concerned about avenging last season's loss to Illinois.
The 21st-ranked Nittany Lions look to extend their longest winning streak in more than three years when they face the Illini at Beaver Stadium on Saturday.
Paterno, now in his 46th season with Penn State (7-1, 4-0 Big Ten), tied Eddie Robinson for the Division I wins lead with his 408th career victory, prevailing 34-24 at Northwestern last Saturday.
Matt McGloin threw for 192 yards with two touchdowns. Silas Redd, who ranks third in the conference with 108.6 rushing yards per game, had a career-high 164 yards and a TD - his fourth consecutive 100-yard effort.
Paterno, however, remained the center of attention.
"Joe's always talked about Eddie with a great deal of respect, nothing but admiration for him," said quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno, his son. "When you're in that kind of company, that's pretty elite company."
"Joe's the kind of person that during the season - it's the seventh win, we're 7-1, we're still in first place in the conference, and we've got to work on staying there. Joe will be on the plane asking us about Illinois. He doesn't pay a lot of attention to that stuff. In the offseason, he might talk about it here and there."
While it's hard to ignore the magnitude of win No. 409, Paterno's focus remains on Illinois (6-2, 2-2), which had dropped five of six in this series before winning 33-13 at Penn State on Oct. 9, 2010.
"We got a good lickin', is what I remember. I thought they kicked our ears in. Hopefully you learn from every game, even when you lose," he said.
"Generally speaking, Illinois is the (second) best football team we've played ... It's a solid football team ... You don't just stare at any one part of their game. You've got to be ready for good solid all around squad. We've got to play a better football game than we've played all year."
The Nittany Lions' only defeat this season came against then-No. 3 Alabama, 27-11 on Sept. 10.
Paterno will try to guide Penn State to its first seven-game win streak since opening 9-0 in 2008. His starting quarterback, however, remains uncertain. McGloin likely has the upper hand over Rob Bolden thanks to last week's impressive showing.
"I just feel good that we are in a position (where we have) a couple of quarterbacks (who) I think - in different situations - can help us win a game," Paterno said.
The Illini, who opened 6-0 for the first time since 1951 and were ranked as high as No. 16, have since looked like anything but one of the better teams in the country. After falling 17-7 to Ohio State on Oct. 15, Illinois dropped out of the rankings with a 21-14 loss at Purdue last Saturday.
Coach Ron Zook's team trailed 21-0 at halftime before scoring 14 points in the fourth quarter.
"We just came out slow," receiver Hayden Daniels said. "We need to come out and play better. If we start out slow, that affects the whole game. We need to be playing hard from the get-go."
Illinois would surely love to see Nathan Scheelhaase pick up the pace. The sophomore quarterback threw for 217 yards with no touchdowns and ran for just 16 yards on 13 carries. He was also sacked four times.
"I tell him it's not all on him, it's not all his fault," Zook said. "He missed some throws, but all quarterbacks do that. It may be that he is pressing and pushing too hard, but I like this team. This is a good team.
"We're 6-2. Do we have to play better? Yeah, absolutely, you know, we've got to play better than we have the last two games. I think that's the challenge that our guys are taking. I think we've got to go out there and play, we're going to go out - we are going to go out and play loose. Let `er roll."