Michigan State 42, Illinois 3 — FINAL
CHAMPAIGN — The losing streak has reached 17. Michigan State (7-1, 4-0) and its beleaguered offense ran roughshod over Illinois on Saturday to the tune of 477 total yards in extending the Illini’s losing skid in Big Ten games.
Spartans quarterback Connor Cook completed 15 of 16 passes for 208 yards and three touchdowns. Running back Jeremy Langford rushed 22 times for 104 yards and a pair of scores.
Illinois’ offense, which entered Big Ten play as one of the best in the country, managed 128 total yards, 25 of which came on the ground.
Nathan Scheelhaase completed 13 of 21 passes for 103 yards.
Illinois (3-4, 0-3) continues Big Ten play next week at Penn State.
More later on HQ.
Michigan State 28, Illinois 3 — End third quarter
Third-quarter star: Jeremy Langford, Michigan State. The Spartans running back eclipsed the 100-yard mark for the game, rushing for 50 yards in the third period, including a highlight-reel touchdown. He’s having a heck of a day.
Third-quarter goat: Illinois offense/defense. The offense doesn’t get much blame, they didn’t have the ball much, but managed to account for minus-4 yards in the third quarter. The defense allowed 149 yards to Michigan State in the third quarter alone. Michigan State looks like a juggernaut.
What we’re thinking: The 200 students who are still here, good on you, but why are you here? You are among the best and most loyal folks this world has to offer.
Michigan State 28, Illinois 3 — 2:37 Third quarter
This is your reminder that I picked Illinois to win this game. I was sober when I made that call. Michigan State marched down the field for another long touchdown drive, capped by Jeremy Langford’s 7-yard run off tackle in which he broke a couple of tackles while dragging Eaton Spence into the end zone with him. The students are funneling out of their seats with some serious quickness. Kam’s, Joe’s and Firehaus are going to be packed real soon. Better get there now if you’re planning to go. Michigan State is 12 for 13 on third down. That’s pretty good.
Michigan State 21, Illinois 3 — 10:07 Third quarter
Cliff Alexander spent halftime in the student section with Jaylon Tate and participated in the 3-in-1 with the fans. He looked like he was having a good time, for all those who are asking how the visit is going. I just don’t know how a kid who’s being treated like a king can not have a good time.
Oh, Michigan State, the team that entered the game 95th in the country in total offense, has scored again. Connor Cook is 14 for 15 passing for 161 yards and two touchdowns. Not bad for an offense that struggled mightily last week at Purdue. I picked Illinois to win. I’m not real smart most of the time.
Michigan State 14, Illinois 3 — HALFTIME
Second-quarter star: Connor Cook, Michigan State. The quarterback bounced back from his goal line fumble to lead an 8-minute plus scoring drive to lead the Spartans into the locker room with an 11-point lead. He connected on a couple of third including a 29-yard TD pass on 3rd-and-25 that went through the hands of two Illinois defenders. Impressive poise by the sophomore, especially after being sacked on consecutive plays.
Second-quarter goat: Illinois defenders. Michigan State is still bad at offense, but the Illinois defense itself is so bad that it’s making the Spartans look formidable. MSU receivers continue finding holes in the Illinois defense. There are plenty to find.
What we’re thinking: Cliff is gone, he missed that last touchdown. People will freak out that the football team was so bad it might negatively affect his decision. I can tell you, these dudes don’t give a darn about the football team or how it does. He’s coming here to play basketball. … This one isn’t out of reach. Illinois can still put up some points, but its going to have to keep this bad MSU offense from denting the scoreboard.
Michigan State 7, Illinois 3 — 8:17 second quarter
That’s not a new guy running round out there at receiver, that’s Spencer Harris. Harris is often a forgotten man in the offense, but he had a couple of key receptions on that drive. That makes Loren Tate happy. Loren always feel bad for Harris because he’s always open and the quarterbacks never see him. Real nice job by Scheelhaase on that third-down play. MSU jumped offside, free play, so he threw the ball down the field and took a chance. Veteran move. All that being said, Illinois got stuffed at the goal line. Michigan State’s defense is just too tough.
Michigan State 7, Illinois 3 — 12:40 second quarter
Welp, that’s not what Illinois was hoping for after forcing a turnover on the goal line. The trick plays finally caught up to the Illini offense as they fumbled handling the ball on what looked like a double reverse. Bet Bill Cubit won’t abandon the trickery, though. It was bound to happen at some point, but that’s too big a part of Illinois’ offensive attack. The reward is greater than the risk for the Illini.
It led to a Michigan State touchdown run for Jeremy Langford.
Cliff’s still here. They showed a clip of the Indiana win on the video board here. The place kinda went nuts.
Illinois 3, Michigan State 0 — End first quarter
First-quarter star: Nathan Scheelhaase, Jonathan Brown Illinois. Scheelhaase, the fifth-year senior quarterback got the ball rolling early for the Illini, leading a scoring drive to go up 3-0 on the Spartans and their vaunted defense. Brown, the All-America candidate middle linebacker forced MSU quarterback Connor Cook to fumble at the goal line to preserve the Illinois lead. This just in: Jonathan Brown is good.
First-quarter goat: Alex Hill, Michael Heitz, Illinois. Heitz decided it was in his best interest to let a defender run right by him in the open field as the lead blocker on Ryan Lankford’s reverse and Hill got flagged for holding on the touchdown pass to Jon Davis. Got to clean it up, guys.
What we’re thinking: Michigan State isn’t so good at this offense thing, is it? … Illinois is almost equally bad at the defense thing. … I wonder if Cliff Alexander is enjoying himself. … He could probably he one heck of a tight end. … Funniest moment of the quarter was Miles Osei and Jevaris Little trying to push the MSU punt returner into the rolling ball at the end of the punt. He didn’t take too kindly to that.
On Michigan State’s first offensive possession, Illinois had three true freshmen (Dunlap, Mosely, Day) playing in the secondary together. Who does Tim Beckman think he is, John Groce? Kent Brown has informed us that receiver Steve Hull has been cleared to play, but will likely only play in an emergency situation. Hull was hit in the head last week in the loss to Wisconsin.
Illinois 3, Michigan State 0 — 9:41 First quarter
Very good opening drive for the Illini, moving into that wind, though they had to settle for three points after a touchdown pass from Nathan Scheelhaase to Jon Davis was negated because of a holding call on Alex Hill. He tackled a defender as Scheelhaase was releasing the ball. He didn’t have to do it, but that stuff happens. Illinois also had what looked like a big play early on a reverse to Ryan Lankford, but Michael Heitz decided to let a defender run by him instead of blocking him in the open field. Encouraging, though, to get points on the opening drive against a defense like MSU’s. Taylor Zalewski drilled a 31-yard goal to open the scoring. It’s real windy down there. Referee Todd Geerlings lost his hat on one play and called the next few plays without the lid.
Michigan State (6-1, 3-0) at Illinois (3-3, 0-2) — KICKOFF
Good afternoon, Marcus Jackson taking over for the great Matt Daniels for the duration of today’s football festivities. The most popular person in the building? It’s got to be Cliff Alexander.
The 6-foot-9, five-star recruit from Chicago just rolled through the Memorial Stadium press box a little bit ago. He was accompanied by his mom and dad along with John Groce and director of basketball operations Mark Morris.
Big Cliff and his folks were dressed in all black. I snapped a quick photo of him and posted it on Twitter (@MarcusJ_NG) if you want to take a look.
I’ve got a story running tomorrow about Alexander and the social media phenomenon he has become. It’s truly been entertaining. Make sure to check that out.
In addition to Alexander, Charles Matthews (St. Rita), D.J. Williams (Simeon) and Zachary Norvell (Simeon) are also on campus. They’re seated with the Illinois staff in the East stands.
My parents are sitting a few rows behind them in Section 104.
Now, on to football. It’s windy as heck here. This might be a game where we might only see scoring at the south end. It’s blowing about 21-25 mph out of the Northwest, depending on which flag you’re looking at.
The temperature is 59 degrees at kickoff, officially the wind is out of the west at 21 mph.
The Illinois captains today are Corey Lewis, Tim Kynard, Miles Osei and Zepheniah Grimes.
Michigan State won the toss and deferred its choice until the second half. The Illini will receive and they will be moving into that stiff, stiff breeze.
Decent crowd here at the start, I’d guess somewhere in the same neighborhood as last week’s game against Wisconsin which drew 47,000-plus. Plenty of seats available in the student section.
With V’Angelo Bentley out, Miles Osei and Ryan Lankford are handling the return duties.
25 minutes until kickoff
Kickoff is actually slated for a 2:36 p.m. start, if you want to be real precise.
Offensive coordinator Bill Cubit will have his work cut out for him today going against Michigan State's defense. Pat Narduzzi's bunch is the toughest in the country. While Illinois isn't leading the nation with its offensive play, the production has certainly picked up for Illinois with Cubit's play-calling. That's one key to today's game is how Cubit and Narduzzi match wits. Find out the three other keys to the game here.
Marcus Jackson will take control of this report at kickoff. He's trying to navigate our photographer, Rick Danzl, to get a photo of Cliff Alexander, who should be in the Memorial Stadium stands today for another hour or so. Cliff and his family exited off the elevator to the press box with John Groce in tow about 20 minutes ago.
Here's some score predictions from the esteemed media assembled at Memorial Stadium on how they think today's game will play out. I went with Michigan State 31, Illinois 17 in Friday's News-Gazette, and I'm sticking with that score today.
There are some people who think Illinois will pull off the upset today. And two of them are sitting to the right of me.
Bob Asmussen, The News-Gazette: Illinois 27, Michigan State 17
Marcus Jackson, The News-Gazette: Illinois 24, Michigan State 21
Mark Tupper, Decatur Herald & Review: Michigan State 27, Illinois 17
Herb Gould, Chicago Sun-Times: Michigan State 28, Illinois 10
Taylor Rooks, Scout.com: Michigan State 28, Illinois 14
Phil Kisubika, Scout.com: Illinois 24, Michigan State 21
Jeremy Werner, ESPN C-U: Illinois 31, Michigan State 28
David Mercer, Associated Press: Michigan State 17, Illinois 13
60 minutes until kickoff
Illinois will wear orange jerseys, orange helmets with the navy blue block I and white pants today. Michigan State is sporting white pants, white tops and its tradtional green helmet. More aesthetically pleasing than the last two weeks with a steady combination of white, orange and red. And that's all the fashion I'll talk about today. I promise.
Had a story on Wes Lunt in today's News-Gazette that's up on HQ right here. If Lunt isn't the starting quarterback for Illinois to open the 2014 season, something drastic has happened. Like his right arm falls off.
Lunt has the most accurate and best-thrown ball of any quarterback Illinois has on its roster. In the words of Illinois quarterback Chase Haslett, son of longtime NFL head coach and assistant Jim Haslett, Lunt reminds him most of Tom Brady. That's a very spot-on description for the Rochester product.
With V'Angelo Bentley out with his left ankle injury, look for Darius Mosely to not only fill his spot at cornerback, but also in the return game. At least on punt returns. I'd expect Ryan Lankford or Martize Barr to line up next to Miles Osei on kickoffs, at least initially, with Mosely next to Osei on punts.
Bentley is the only significant name who is set to miss today's game because of injury. Steve Hull and Osei, who both suffered head injuries against Wisconsin last Saturday night, should be full go. Illinois has avoided injuries most of the season, much like Tim Beckman has avoided talking about one of his least favorite topics.
A handful of recruits are expected to be in attendance today, most notably Class of 2014 commits Matt Domer and Malik Turner. Domer, a running back at Chicago Mt. Carmel, and Turner, a wide receiver at Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin, will have their senior seasons extend at least one more week. Both of their teams are 8-1 and should get a first-round home game when the IHSA announces playoff pairings tonight. Click here to find out what other recruits are expected to take to the field in the north end zone shortly.
Jonathan Brown and Spencer Harris are on the cover of today's game program. Brown is coming off a six-tackle effort against Wisconsin, his lowest output of the season. But he still has 66 tackles on the season, by far the most on the Illinois team. Harris had his most productive game of the season last week, hauling in four passes for 58 yards. If he gets that type of production today, along with the rest of the Illinois wideouts, Illinois could pull off an upset. Key word is could.
Bet the folks in Nebraska aren't happy right now. Jerry Kill is probably enjoying his view from the press box at TCF Bank Stadium as his Gophers are up on Bo Pelini's Cornhuskers 27-13 late in the third quarter. A win and Minnesota becomes the fourth bowl-eligible team in the Big Ten this year.
Good to have Bob Asmussen back in the press box today. This is his first Illinois game in person since Illinois beat Miami (Ohio) 50-14. And, on cue, he leaned over to me and said, "Illinois is going to win. I don't know why. I just have a feeling." We all know Bob is a master of predictions, so take that with a grain of salt. In all seriousness, it's great to have Bob back and he's close to coming back to work full-time. In his words, "I'm not dead," so he's keeping his optimistic viewpoint.
Also good to see another long-time Illinois beat writer in Herb Gould of the Chicago Sun-Times at today's game. It's his first game in Champaign this year and second of the year after he took in the Illinois-Washington game at Solider Field in Chicago.
90 minutes until kickoff
Players from both teams out on the field right now getting loose. Quarterbacks are testing out the wind, which, like I mentioned earlier, could pose a big test today.
No Cliff Alexander sightings in Memorial Stadium yet. Of course, fans can't come into the stands yet, but that's beside the point. Alexander's official visit is the biggest on-campus visit by a basketball recruit since Shaun Livingston stepped on the Illinois campus a decade ago.
For more Cliff notes (see what I did here) and to get some perspective from some national recruiting analysts, click here.
And to hear what myself, Steve Kelly and Loren Tate had to say about Alexander's visit, along with some expertise from City/Suburban Hoops Report publisher Joe Henricksen, click here.
Back for more in a half hour with more updates and notes.
Two hours until kickoff
Good afternoon college football fans. Matt Daniels here looking out live from the Memorial Stadium press box on a picturesque late October afternoon. Seriously, if you were to have a postcard of what a perfect fall day should look like, this is the one.
Temperatures should be tolerable at kickoff, around the mid-50s, and the sun is out in full force right now. It is a bit breezy out there, so who wins the toss and what direction each team is going at the start could factor significantly into today's game.
Michigan State players wandered onto the field around 12:25 p.m., stood on the opposing sidelines, jogged a few times across the field, gathered in the south end zone and then headed off the visitors' locker room in the north end zone.
Illinois players arrived on the Memorial Stadium turf around 12:10 p.m. They had a little bit later to sleep in this morning before leaving the Hawthorn Suites and heading to their home venue. Illinois coach Tim Beckman had some of his seniors speak at the homecoming pep rally last night on the Quad. Illinois assistant coaches Mike Bellamy and Greg Colby were also on hand for the festivities.
It's a big game for Darius Mosely. The true freshman from O'Fallon should start at cornerback given V'Angelo Bentley is out with a left ankle injury. Beckman is optimistic this is the only game Bentley, also dynamic on kick and punt returns this year, will miss.
Beckman ventured east on Interstate 74 last night to check out his son Alex's final game of the season as quarterback at Urbana. The Tigers lost 41-32 at Danville, but the younger Beckman broke the school's single-season passing record. Click here to get a brief recap of Alex Beckman's night in Danville.
The Big Ten schedule hasn’t done any favors for Illinois. Its first three opponents are a combined 16-3, including 8-1 in league play.
“We knew that we were playing the best,” Beckman said. “It’s a great mark to see where we are. They’re competing to be champs, and right now, we’re competing to win the next football game.”
Here is an item you haven’t heard much from Illinois defenders not named Jonathan Brown.
Zane Petty impressed the coaching staff with his 14 tackles against the Badgers.
His efforts were good enough to earn him another start against Michigan State.
“I thought he was just consistent tackling,” defensive coordinator Tim Banks said. “He just plays hard. He runs to the ball every snap. He didn’t have very many loafs at all and didn’t have any (missed assignments against Wisconsin). He let a guy get inside him on a big pass one time, but outside of that, I thought he did some really good things.”
Petty said he arrived at Illinois hoping to start, but surgery in January on his right shoulder set him back a bit. He dislocated his shoulder three years ago, and after Illinois trainers checked him out, decided surgery was needed.
“When I came here, I didn’t even know anything was wrong,” said Petty, who rooms with another junior college transfer, Eric Finney. “I’d been here for about two or three weeks, and everyone on the team was like, ‘Who is this new kid? He’s already hurt?’ They helped me through it a lot.”
The stage of playing in the Big Ten hasn’t bothered Petty too much.
“It’s still the same thing,” he said. “There’s more pressure now that I’m getting more snaps, but it’s still football.”
Be back in a half hour.