Michigan State Takes Down No. 16 Illinois in Champaign, 23-15
Payton Thorne was 19-of-29 passing for 182 yards and two touchdowns
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (MSU Athletics) – The Michigan State football team defeated No. 16 Illinois on a windy, blustery day at Memorial Stadium on Saturday afternoon. The victory over the Illini, who were also ranked No. 13 in the AFCA Coaches Poll and No. 14 in the AP Poll, snapped Illinois’ six-game winning streak and gave the Spartans (4-5, 2-4 Big Ten) their first win over a ranked opponent this season.
Facing steady winds of more than 25 mph, Payton Thorne was 19-of-29 passing for 182 yards and two touchdowns for the Spartans, while Jayden Reed had five catches for 68 yards, including a 16-yard TD in the third quarter. Jalen Berger led MSU on the ground with 81 yards on 15 carries, and also had three receptions for 29 yards.
Michigan State’s defense had three sacks and nine tackles for loss, led by redshirt sophomore Cal Haladay, who had a career-high 3.5 TFLs for 10 yards. Aaron Brule had five stops and 1.5 TFLs, including an 8-yard sack. MSU collected five fourth-down stops in the game.
The nation’s leading punter, Bryce Baringer averaged 49.6 yards per punt and placed four of his five punts inside the 20.
The Spartans turned the ball over on their first possession on a Thorne interception, but the defense held the Illini out of the end zone after Illinois failed to convert on first-and-goal from the 3-yard line. It marked MSU’s fourth fourth-and-goal stop of the season.
Illinois did find the end zone on its next possession as Isaiah Williams caught a short pass and raced 60 yards down the sideline for a touchdown, putting the Illini on top, 7-0.
The Spartans responded with a long 14-play, 72-yard scoring drive that took 6:27 off the clock and was capped by a 21-yard field goal by Ben Patton, his first career field goal as a Spartan.
Michigan State took the lead on Tre Mosley’s 1-yard touchdown grab on third-and-goal at the 10:21 mark in the second quarter, but Ben Patton missed the PAT to make it 9-7 in favor of MSU.
Taking a 9-7 lead into halftime, the Spartans took advantage of a bad Illinois punt midway through the third quarter and converted the good field position into a quick six-play, 29-yard touchdown drive to go up 16-7 at the 5:45 mark. Taking over on the Illini 29-yard line after a 6-yard punt by Hugh Robertson, Jarek Broussard capped the scoring drive with an 11-yard touchdown run.
On the ensuing Illini drive, the Spartans made another fourth-down stop, setting up good field position once again at the UI 41-yard line. MSU quickly converted, scoring three plays later as Thorne found Reed in the corner of the end zone on a 16-yard touchdown pass to put MSU on top, 23-7, with 2:57 left in the third.
The Fighting Illini made it a one-score game at 23-15 early in the fourth quarter on Williams’ second TD reception, this time a flip pass for 7 yards; Illinois then converted the two-point conversion.
The Spartans had two fourth-down stops in the fourth quarter to prevent Illinois from tying the game. With Illinois driving down the field on the last minute of the game, MSU made one last stop on the last play, a third-and-10 from the MSU 27-yard line, to seal the victory.
Michigan State returns to action next Saturday, Nov. 12 vs. Rutgers at Spartan Stadium.
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