Game 5 marked the second Big Ten Conference game for Illinois, and pitted them against Penn State. The previous week, Illinois had suffered a tough loss at home against Ohio State, and many expected the Illini's next game at Penn State to end up in a loss due to the Fighting Illini's history versus the Nitanny Lions. Illinois came into the game sporting an abysmal 3–14 (.214 W pct.) career standing against the Nittany Lions. The Illini also came into the game with the dubious distinction of having never secured a victory at Beaver Stadium in State College. History wasn't on the Illini's side, but this was a different team.
In addition to the Illini's poor historical performance against the Nittany Lions, the Illini faced another disadvantage as the game at Penn State was to take place on Homecoming weekend. The faithful Penn State alumni would be flocking toward Beaver Stadium in hopes of a rousing Homecoming victory for their beloved team, and a sellout was all but assured as soon as the schedule was printed. The last time Illinois had played at Penn State was in 2008 and the game was a racous event. Penn State was labeling the nationally televised sellout game as a "White-Out" in revenge for the Illini's shocking upset victory at home against Penn State in the 2007 season that ultimately culminated in a Rose Bowl berth for the Illini. The stage was too much for the Illini in the "White-Out" game, and #22 Illinois fell to #12 Penn State 24–38. All of these factors were to be disadvantages for Illinois, but the Illini came in as a battled tested group that hung in with Missouri and Ohio State and was eager to secure their first big victory of the season.
The game was a shocking success for the Illini as they went on to crush Penn State 33–13. The Illini looked great in nearly all phases of the game playing steady offense, turnover defense, and a special trick play TD pass from running back Jason Ford to tight end Evan Wilson. This performance helped the Illini overcome shoddy punt returning, as Jack Ramsey fumbled 3 punts on the day. Shocking the Nittany Lions at home on Homecoming weekend went on to inspire the Illini, who went on to secure a Texas Bowl berth and win to cap off a successful 7–6 season, when most analysts picked the Illini to finish at the bottom of the Big Ten and go bowl-less for a third consecutive year.