"It's awesome," junior defensive end Marcus Rush said. "It just boosts our confidence even more than it already is up right now. It's a great feeling for sure because we worked really hard this week and it definitely showed."
The stout defensive performance also was a week after Illinois put 32 points on Wisconsin – the nation's sixth-ranked defense – and a month after putting 522 yards on Cincinnati – the nation's eighth-ranked defense.
Still, Rush said the Spartans didn't do everything they wanted – they didn't hold Illinois under 100 total yards.
"There was a couple big plays that they broke out but our goal is to keep them under 100, so we will break down film and see how it goes," he said.
The defense again came up with two turnovers, including a fumble recovered by Rush, who said it felt good to make a big play at last.
"It's been kind of a dry season for me," he said. "To come out here and have confidence in myself and be able to produce is great."
In a game filled with defensive highlights, perhaps the biggest play for MSU was a strong goal-line stand to keep Illinois out of the end zone and preserve a 7-3 lead.
"That's one of our main goals – try to make sure that the offense can't score," sophomore Shilique Calhoun said. "It was that goal line stand, but we were trying to make sure they did not score and it got our morale up and got us ready to go."
With 42 points on the scoreboard and without a touchdown allowed for the second straight week, senior linebacker Max Bullough said it was an overall good performance for the Spartans – on both sides of the ball.
"I think if you look at us (Saturday) you can't take much away from us," he said. "I think there is obviously things to correct on offense and defense but I think for the most part we came and performed."