NCF Nation: Greg McClendon

Penn State grounded in loss to Bama

September, 11, 2010
9/11/10
10:38
PM ET
Penn State came into Saturday night's pressure cooker at No. 1 Alabama with a simple plan.
  • Run the football
  • Don't commit turnovers
  • Keep Alabama's offense off the field
The Lions failed in all three areas, leading to a somewhat predictable result: a 24-3 loss to the defending national champs.

Penn State wasn't very competitive in the final 20 minutes or so, but the Lions had many chances to make the Tide sweat a little more. All four Penn State turnovers took place in Alabama territory, including a Rob Bolden interception at the Tide 3-yard line as the Nittany Lions seemed poised to tie the score at 7-7.

With another chance to grab momentum after halftime, a strong Penn State drive ended with another Bolden interception, this time at the 13-yard line. Bolden finished 13 for 29 for 144 yards with two interceptions and no touchdowns.

None of this should surprise you. Bolden was bound to make some mistakes in his first road start, no matter the opponent. Put him against Alabama on the road, and you had to expect some miscues. He'll learn from the experience and be better off eventually. I still like what he brings to the table.

More troubling for Penn State is the continued inability to spark Evan Royster and the run game. Royster had only 32 yards on nine carries. Frustration must be building for the senior, who returned to school to improve his NFL stock but hasn't done so thus far.

Penn State's defense also struggled against a balanced Alabama offense, as quarterback Greg McElroy and running back Trent Richardson both had big games.

Where does this leave Penn State? Still a step behind Ohio State, Iowa and, to a lesser extent, Wisconsin in the Big Ten.

The Lions have some work to do in the next two weeks before another huge test Oct. 2 at Iowa to open league play.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

CHICAGO -- It started out as a directive from the coaches but quickly turned into a spirited competition between Illinois players.

During the offseason, Illini strength coach Lou Hernandez instructed linebacker Brit Miller and several of his teammates to slim down to 240 pounds. Miller had swelled to 258 pounds following a foot injury and needed to drop weight before training camp. Inspired by the TV show "The Biggest Loser," Miller and the others initiated a competition to see who could reach 240 first.

Other competitors included fullback Rahkeem Smith, linebacker Sam Carson III and wide receiver Greg McClendon.

"Every day, there were weigh-in sessions, fighting weight," Miller said. "It kept the summer fun. We'd always try to get each other to go out to eat, and nobody would do it. They'd be like, 'Aw, I'm not going out to eat with you.' And there were guys trying to exercise at times when nobody would be in there. You'd catch guys doing some weird stuff."

So, who won?

"This guy right here, dude, the biggest loser," Miller said, raising his arms in victory. "I was the first to get to 240."

Miller's svelte frame will help him lead an Illini defense looking to replace All-American middle linebacker J Leman. After playing on the outside last year, Miller shifted over to the middle this spring. He recorded 62 tackles last year, a number that should increase in his new role.

The weight loss could present a problem in training camp, as Miller tries to retain his title as the team's best belly-flopper. A little history: Illinois trains in Rantoul, Ill., a rural town located about 15 miles north of Champaign, and the team practices next to a water park. The players head there during the third week of workouts for the annual competition.

"There's no trees or anything," Miller said. "It's us getting just murdered and mauled every day and then all these kids having a lot of fun at the pool 100 yards away. It's that tempting thing, like, 'Don't cross the gun line' from the movie 'Life.' That's the gun line for us right there. Somebody breaks, they're just gonna be swimming in their pads, like, 'I can't take it, coach.'"

Miller has won the belly-flop competition the last two years and is planning something special this year.

"If done correctly, my back won't even get wet," he said. "Just hit the water and stay on the top."

Could his new lack of padding hurt his chances?

"Dude, I can still throw it down," Miller said. "One time I lost like 35 pounds in college, on purpose, too, and I still had a belly. The belly goes nowhere, just everything else."

SPONSORED HEADLINES