A lot of teams that utilize a no-huddle attack like to move the ball via the pass, spreading receivers out across the field and preventing defenses from changing personnel groups.
Bill O'Brien (left) pushed the tempo in the second half Saturday and Illinois' defense had no answers.
When Penn State went to its no-huddle, "NASCAR" attack in the second half of Saturday's win at Illinois, the Nittany Lions didn't let Illinois' defenders catch their breath. But they did most of their damage with the run, not the pass.
The Nittany Lions called 26 runs and 12 passes in the second half, finishing with 100 yards on 26 carries in the final two quarters (which included a sack of Matt McGloin). Fifty-one of those yards were compiled by running back Zach Zwinak, who saw some tired faces when he looked across the line of scrimmage.
"You take advantage of their wearing down," Zwinak said.
Illinois' defense had allowed 21 points in the first half but had given up just 4.5 yards per play. They were also getting good pressure on McGloin, who was sacked as many times Saturday (three) as he had been in the first four games combined.
So Bill O'Brien changed the pace in the second half.
"Every time we went no-huddle, we were just driving the ball, making plays," tight end Matt Lehman said. "They were getting tired, not getting set. That's what Coach O'Brien wants us to do -- just get around the ball, snap it and get the play going."
Penn State will now turn its attention to a Northwestern offense that is averaging 466.6 yards per game and piled up 704 in Saturday's win over Indiana. But the Wildcats also gave up 425 yards to the Hoosiers in that game.
Tempo will be a big factor for both sides Saturday. Penn State will want to keep the ball away from Northwestern's offense, so establishing the running game, which has now produced 173-yard efforts in consecutive weeks, will be a key. But will it be a slow, deliberate ground attack, or NASCAR? Will it be Zwinak or Bill Belton? O'Brien has plenty of options, and many were on display in Champaign.
"We've got five different backs that we can use," Belton said. "Power backs, speed backs -- we all bring different things to the table."