Illinois @ Michigan State Box Score Breakdown

Things are so easy when you break the down by the numbers, and that is what Jeff Murdock does every weekend after the Illinois football games. He sits down in front of a stat sheet and uses it to help in his analyzation of the Illini. <br><br> This week he noticed there was nothing pretty on the stat sheet for the Illini outside of Pierre Thomas' 178 yards and 2 touchdowns.

In the preview of the Michigan State Spartan defense, I stated the Illini should try to pound the football at the Spartan front seven if they wanted to be successful on offense. After watching the game and then perusing the stat sheet, I see Ron Turner had much of the same ideas on how to defeat the Spartans, at least offensively, run, run, and run some more. Saturday afternoon the Illini ran the ball 39 times for 230 yards (averaging 5.9 yards per carry) taking advantage of the Spartan's weak front seven.

Unfortunately for the Illini, the passing game was no where near as successful as their rushing offense. For the second straight game, Jon Beutjer was removed from the lineup for ineffectiveness. This time, Ron Turner decided to go right to Chris Pazan as the Illini signal caller, a right Pazan earned with last week's performance against the Wisconsin Badgers. Pazan was not more successful that Beutjer in throwing the ball, but the team seemed to have a different energy when he was on the field (Illinois scored sixteen of its twenty-five points in the second half).

  Michigan State Illinois
First Downs 19 18
Rushes - Yards 46-253 39-234
Passing Yards 234 144
Passes Comp-Att-Int 23-30-0 15-25-0
Total Offense (Plays-Yards) 76-487 64-378
Fumble Returns - Yards 0-0 0-0
Punt Returns - Yards 3-61 2-35
Kickoff Returns - Yards 3-68 2-52
Interception Returns - Yards 0-0 0-0
Punts (Num - Avg.) 4-41.8 5-53.2
Fumbles - Lost 1-0 1-1
Time of Possession 31:29 28:31
Third Down Conversions 7-14 7-15
Fourth Down Conversions 1-1 1-1
Red Zone Scores - Chances 5-6 2-3
Sacks By: Num - Yards 2-15 0-0

The general box score numbers are not really all that different between the Illini and the Spartans outside of the passing game. Both teams were effective on the ground, and took rather good care of the ball with Illinois having the game's only turnover. The Illini were able to score one of their touchdowns on a blocked punt in the fourth quarter, and that does not show up with a quick look at the box score.

The two key stats that I would highlight to show the difference in the game are first downs (MSU 29 - ILL 18) and red zone chances (MSU 5-6 - ILL 2-3). The twenty-nine first downs show that the Spartans were able to consistently get first downs and keep the Illini defense on the field. When you combine the first downs with more scoring opportunities in the red zone, it is pretty easy to see why the Illini were playing from behind all day on Saturday.

The Illini ground game on Saturday could best be described as the Pierre Thomas show. He ran for 188 yards on 21 carries and recorded two touchdowns. When EB Halsey suffered a knee injury during the game, much of the rushing load was placed on the shoulders, or to be more precise legs, of Pierre Thomas and he did not disappoint.

  Attempts Total TDs Long Average
Pierre Thomas 21 188 2 69 9.0
Jason Davis 7 35 0 8 5.0
EB Halsey 4 10 0 3 2.5
Franklin Payne 1 8 0 8 8.0
Marcus Mason 2 7 0 4 3.5
TEAM 1 -2 0 -2 -2.0
Chris Pazan 1 -6 0 -6 -6.0
Jon Beutjer 2 -6 0 3 -3.0
Total 39 234 2 69 6.0

Pierre Thomas: Pierre showed on Saturday what many observers of the Illinois football program have been thinking since he first took a carry last season: He is Illinois' best running back. While he does lack the breakaway speed that would make him unstoppable in the open field, he does have the power and the want to punish defenders that should make him Illinois' starting running back. On Saturday, Pierre only had one run that resulted in negative yardage, and even if you take out his 69 yard run in the third quarter, he still averaged just under six yards per carry (5.95 ypc).

Jason Davis: Davis was once again solid as the Illini's fullback. At the beginning of the season no one knew who was going to be able to step up and replace the departed Carey Davis, but Jason Davis has bee extremely effective for Ron Turner's offense in both the running and the passing game.

For the second straight game Ron Turner decided that Jon Beutjer did not give his team the best chance to win football games. Turner benched Beutjer at halftime and put in Chris Pazan, who was able to lead the Illini on a scoring drive against Wisconsin last Saturday. According to Turner, the decision to start Beutjer was made on Sunday because after watching the Wisconsin game tapes he felt Jon gave Illinois "the best chance to win against Michigan State." Turner changed his mind after Beutjer was once again ineffective running the offense. When he was interviewed at the end of the game yesterday, he stated that it was not known who Illinois quarterback would be for next Saturday's game against Michigan, but if he wants to listen to me, my vote is for Chris Pazan over Jon Beutjer.

Comp-Att-Int Yards Touchdowns
Jon Beutjer 10-14-0 96 0
Chris Pazan 5-11 48 0
Totals 15-25 144 0

Chris Pazan: The numbers for Pazan are not impressive at all, but there was a change in the team's attitude when he was on the field versus when Jon Beutjer was on the field. Pazan seemed to bring a confidence or swagger into the Illini huddle that rubbed off on his teammates. The Illini scored sixteen of their twenty-five points with Pazan in the game, and he seemed to have more control.

Jon Beutjer: Once again Jon put up some decent numbers, but poor results. This has been the stigma of Jon's whole career at Illinois. He always puts up decent numbers, or even gaudy numbers, but his teams are not able to put down the most important statistic, the +1 to their win total. I am beginning to wonder if Jon is playing through an injury. We all know about his back problems from last season, but he is dramatically under throwing deep balls that he used to make, I wonder if there is not something more wrong with his arm.

The Illini really did not have a passing game on Saturday afternoon. Only three Illinois receivers caught the ball in the air, otherwise the passes were coming to backs out of the backfield.

Receptions Yards TDs Long
Kendrick Jones 5 37 0 14
Jason Davis 3 22 0 8
Pierre Thomas 2 48 0 34
Franklin Payne 2 16 0 8
EB Halsey 2 15 0 12
Mark Kornfeld 1 6 0 6
Totals 15 144 0 34

Kendrick Jones: I don't think there is any doubt any more as to who the Illini's number one receiver will be this season. That guy is Kendrick Jones. All year he has been a focal point of the Illinois offense, and he has come through for the team. He is catching passes, and making plays, and is the one true deep threat in the Illini receiving corps. The improvement he has made in his game over the last season is remarkable, and personally has me excited about what he can do next season.

Franklin Payne: Payne has become the Illini's number two receiver thanks to injuries to both Lonnie Hurst and Ade Adeyamo. He is a stead receiver that can catch the ball and make plays, but he is lacking the breakaway speed required to be a deep threat in the Illini offense.

For the first time all season, the Illini's top tacklers were littered with members of the front seven instead of just the defensive backfield. The safeties, Morris Virgil and Justin Harrison led the Illini in tackles, but after that the next leading tackler in the defensive backfield was Kelvin Hayden who was behind five members of the Illini defensive front seven.

Solo Assists Total
Justin Harrison 4 7 11
Morris Virgil 7 3 10
Anthony Thornhill 6 3 9
J. Leman 5 2 7
Scott Moss 4 2 6
Mike Gawelek 2 4 6
Ryan Matha 3 0 3
Kelvin Hayden 3 0 3
Matt Sinclair 2 1 3
Charles Bailey, Jr. 2 1 3
Joe Mele 2 1 3
Josh Norris 1 2 3
James Cooper 2 0 2
Mike O'Brien 1 1 2
Chris Norwell 1 1 2
Alan Ball 0 2 2
Steve Weatherford 1 0 1
Russ Weil 1 0 1
Brian Brosnan 1 0 1
Brian Schaefering 1 0 1

Justin Harrison: The freshman from Bloomington, IL has stepped in the strong safety role and made the position his own. He has shown a lot of promise, and should be a staple in the Illini defensive back field for the next four seasons. His nose for the ball and the ability to give a hit is impressive for a true freshman.

J Leman: The Illini have been looking for a spark in the line backing corps, and I think they may have found that spark plug in J Leman. He is known for being a little crazy on the football field, but he knows where the ball is and seems to give the team just an extra little spark. The red shirt freshman should be someone to watch for on the Illini defensive for the next three seasons.

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