Dantonio: "We stayed pretty composed"

Spartans bounce back from rough outing against Purdue to rout Illinois on Saturday -- and it was a complete performance for MSU as it moved to 7-1 overall and 4-0 in the Big Ten.

For two weeks, Michigan State looked like it had figured it out offensively – whatever "it" was.

Enter Purdue coming to East Lansing and an ugly 14-0 win for the Spartans and questions came back.

On Saturday, any struggles against Purdue could not have seemed more distant for Michigan State as it routed Illinois 42-3 in Champaign to move to 7-1 overall and 4-0 in the Big Ten.

"Our football team is pretty composed," coach Mark Dantonio. "If we win by two or one, it's not going to bother us. If we win big, it's obviously not going to bother us. I think we stayed pretty composed."

For its part, the offense posted 477 yards on the Illinois defense, led by Connor Cook and Jeremy Langford.

"The whole offense was clicking, in the pass game, receivers catching it, making plays downfield and getting yards after the catch," Cook said. "Running backs running hard and getting yards. The offensive line blocking well in the pass game and run game.

"We were able to get into a groove early and things just kept clicking."

Cook went 15 of 16 passing for 208 yards and three touchdowns, while completing passes to 10 different receivers and setting a school record with a 93.8 completion percentage.

Langford had his third straight 100-yard game with 104 yards rushing on 22 carries and a pair of touchdowns.

The stout Michigan State defense held Illinois to 128 total yards, well below its 466 yards per game average entering Saturday.

It was the second game in a row the Spartans did not allow a touchdown.

"It just boosts our confidence even more than it already is up right now," Rush said. "It's a great feeling for sure because we worked really hard this week and it definitely showed."

It wasn't smooth sailing early as the Spartans trailed 3-0 after the first quarter. Illinois hit a 31-yard field goal on its opening drive after a touchdown pass from Nathan Scheelhaase to tight end Jon Davis was called back for a holding penalty.

MSU put together a drive behind Langford, but Cook fumbled the ball as he tried to extend it into the end zone.

"I've never had a rushing touchdown and I was that close and fumbled it," Cook said. "It was a stupid play. Never should have reached out."

It wouldn't matter as the MSU defense got the ball right back on the following Illinois drive when Shilique Calhoun forced a fumble from Illini receiver Ryan Lankford on a reverse. Defensive end Marcus Rush recovered the ball at the Illinois 23-yard line.

Dantonio said MSU had seen plenty of reverses on tape from Illinois, but it was a great play by Calhoun.

"It was a great play by Shilique," Dantonio said. "Another big play in the game because it got a chance to get that touchdown back that we gave up when we fumbled the football."

Cook promptly hit tight end Jamal Lyles for an 18-yard gain and Langford found the end zone with a 1-yard touchdown run to put MSU ahead 7-3 on a 4-play, 23-yard drive with 12:40 before the half.

Illinois responded with a long drive, but on a fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line, linebacker Max Bullough stuck Davis for no gain and MSU took over with 8:15 left in the first half.

"We knew they were going to come with the ball quick and line up and try to overpower us and we had seen it on film," Bullough said. "We were just lined up and we knew what they were doing. As long as we played downhill, we would be fine. Before that, we hadn't really built any momentum. I think that's kind of where it all started."

The offense, pinned at its 1-yard line, put together a 99-yard drive that ended with Cook escaping pressure and throwing for the end zone to Bennie Fowler. A pair of Illini defenders deflected the ball, which Fowler caught as he fell into the end zone to give MSU a 14-3 lead going into the half.

"We had confidence when we started it," Langford said. "We said it will be a 99-yard drive and we all came together as a team. We scored and came into the half with a touchdown."

Cook was 6 of 6 passing for 81 yards on the 15-play drive which took 8:08 off the clock.

He kept the momentum going in the second half as he was 4 of 4 passing for 50 yards on a scoring drive that concluded with a 13-yard touchdown pass to tight end Josiah Price.

Delton Williams and Langford teamed up on another long drive which Langford capped with a 7-yard touchdown run in which he broke multiple tackles.

"We go in the locker room and say, 'Hey, we are going to get the ball coming out against the wind, we've got to have a great drive,'" Dantonio said. "We did and we scored. Went three-and-out and got another one so all of a sudden we have 28. With that, we just sort of rolled. That's as well as we've played I think in terms of running the football."

MSU added two more scores in the fourth quarter as Cook hit Keith Mumphery for a 47-yard touchdown and Williams capped the scoring with a 42-yard touchdown run.

Now, the rivalry game with Michigan and the meat of the Spartans' schedule looms ahead.

"We're 4-0, which is where we wanted to be," Dantonio said. "We'll worry about that tomorrow. All our focus is really on the present.

"Let's have a good time on the bus and plane ride home and we'll take care of business tomorrow."


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