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).
|Rushes - Yards||46-253||39-234|
|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 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.
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.
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.
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.
|Charles Bailey, Jr.||2||1||3|
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.