Michigan State improved to 7-0 on the year, after a 26-6 victory over Illinois on Saturday. It is the first time since 1966 that the Spartans have started out the year with seven straight victories. A little history lesson for all those non-Spartan fans that read this blog: The last time that MSU won the National Championship was in 1966! I was unable to watch the game because I was standing up in my best friend’s wedding, but I got updates throughout the ceremony. This seemed to be another statement win for the Spartans, in which they did not have a letdown after two huge victories in the previous two weeks. This seems to be a different Michigan State team, in which every week, they keep proving that they belong at the top of the Big Ten Conference. With the victory over the Fighting Illini, MSU moved up to #8 in the AP Poll.
Illinois got on the board in the first quarter with a 21 yard field goal by placekicker Derek Dimke. It was the only points scored in the first, as Illinois took a 3-0 lead into the second. Michigan State tied it up at three, on a 37 yard field goal by Dan Conroy with 6:37 left in the half. The Fighting Illini went down the field right before half and kicked a 33 yard field with four seconds left in the second quarter. This put them up 6-3 heading into intermission, as it looked like the Spartans were feeling a little “hungover” and not playing at their best.
The second half was a different story, in which the Spartans took the game over and continued their win streak. MSU got on the board first in the third quarter on a 34 yard field goal by Conroy. They then proceeded to stop the Illini and score again on their next drive. This time it was QB Kirk Cousins hooking up with WR B. J. Cunningham, on a 48 yard touchdown pass. Michigan State then kicked another field goal with two minutes to go in the third quarter, this one a 32 yarder, as the Spartans took a 16-6 lead into the fourth quarter.
MSU continued to play stout defense, holding Illinois scoreless for the whole fourth quarter. They added ten more points to cruise to a 26-6 victory. Conroy kicked another field goal, an 18 yarder, while Larry Caper added a 15 yard touchdown run to end the scoring for the Spartans.
Cousins led all passers with 201 yards and 1 touchdown. The Spartan run game was held to under 100 yards for the first time all year, in which the leading rusher for the Spartans was Caper, with 37 yards on 8 carries. The wide receivers continued to make big catches, as Cunningham had 3 receptions for 83 yards and Mark Dell had 3 receptions for 55 yards. On defense, true freshman CB Darqueze Dennard deserves to be recognized for his performance in filling in for the suspended Chris L. Rucker. He had 5 tackles, 1 forced fumble and 1 fumble recovery on the day. The defense as a whole played well, holding Illinois RB Mikel Leshoure to only 83 yards on 23 carries. He was averaging 119 yards a game, so the defense was able to step up, and again stop a very good run game.
The Spartans control their own destiny and they must continue to take it one game at a time. Next up: Northwestern…
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Written by David Lesmeister