Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase (#2) is involved in a train wreck with Michigan State's Tyler Hoover (#91) and Jerel Worthy (#99) during Saturday's 26-6 loss to the Spartans.

Dissecting Michigan State (26) – Illinois (6): Game Balls, Catcalls & Downfalls

While Saturday’s loss was not a pretty way to reach the half way point of the season, Illinois has made it through the State Stretch and come away with a 3-3 record with 6 games left on the schedule, all of which could go either way.

Against the Spartans, Illinois was not able to continue its road magic, allowing 23 unanswered points in the second half after leading 6-3 at the break.

Michigan State moved to 7-0 and is the last undefeated team in the Big Ten after Ohio State’s loss at Wisconsin.

If the Illini should take anything away from the first half of the season, it’s that they can play with the big boys in the league when protecting the football.

Illinois has been in every game thus far at the half, and if it can clean up a few minor details in the second half of the season, it should see even more success on the field.

Déjà Vu

The Michigan State game had many similarities to the Illini’s season opener against Missouri.

After both team’s offenses struggled to move the ball in the first half, the Illini entered halftime with the lead.

Illinois looked confident coming into the third quarter, but several costly turnovers gave the Spartans momentum and the Illini were unable to score in the second half as their lead slipped away.

Aside from the Penn State game, the Illini have had a hard time getting things rolling during the second half of games. Through 6 games, the Illini have scored 88 first half points, while only scoring 40 second-half points. Take away the SIU and Penn State contests, and that number falls to 13 second-half points.

Illinois has led at the half of all but one of its matchups (Ohio State) but only has a 3-3 record to show for it. The team must find a way to get its offense rolling in the second half of games if it wants to reach a bowl this year.

Final Score: Michigan State 26, Illinois 6

A full recap of the game can be found on Writing Illini’s Gameday Binoculars.

Game Balls

Nick Houska’s Game Ball

  • Corey Liuget

While most of the team played well on Saturday, it is hard to pick someone who really excelled.

Liuget did an excellent job of making himself felt, recording a team leading 11 tackles (one for a loss) and 2 quarterback hurries.

Liuget did a great job, particularly in the first half, of keeping pressure on Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins.

Liuget’s performance was part of the reason that the Spartans only racked up 3 points in the first half.

In the second half, the Spartan line shifted to focus more on Liuget and give Cousins more time, which translated to several big throws.

Liuget has already accumulated 29 tackles this season and only needs 7 more to have a new career high for the season.

Liuget’s productivity is a perfect example of how new defensive coordinator Vic Koenning has really helped this talented defensive squad realize its potential.

Catcalls

Nick Houska

  • Turnovers

The Illini lost the turnover battle with the Spartans by a 4-1 ratio.

A week after Scheelhaase was perfect on the road at Penn State, he had 3 interceptions, matching his mark from Missouri. The fourth turnover came when Scheelhaase threw a deep pass to Jenkins, who fumbled the ball when a Spartan player hit him from behind.

For the second week in a row, Illinois’ defense once again had to deal with terrible field position due to turnovers, this time by the offense instead of special teams.

The Illini offensive line was pushed around by the Spartans, perhaps more so than any other team has done this season.

It is hard for a freshman quarterback to make consistently good decisions when he is under constant pressure.

Paul Petrino summed it up well after the game, saying:

“In football, the toughest team usually wins. They were tougher than us today”

Downfalls

Nick Houska

  • Run Game

The Spartans held the Illini to their fewest yards on the ground this season.

The Illini could only manage 114 yards against Michigan State’s blistering defense.

That is less than what Mikel Leshoure was averaging per game before the meeting.

Illinois is 0-2 when Leshoure get less than 85 yards a game (80 vs. Ohio State, 83 vs. Michigan State), and 3-1 when he gains more than 100 yards on the ground.

The backs are not the only ones to blame for the reduced output; they got poor blocking from the offensive line and the Illini were trying to pass more in the second half as they tried to keep from falling behind.

Quite simply, Illinois cannot afford to have the run game taken away if it wants to have more success in the second half of the schedule.

Wrting Illini Projection Record: 5-1 (83.33%)

Check back later in the week for a look at Illinois’ homecoming foe, the Indiana Hoosiers.

Until then.

Tags: Corey Liuget Derek Dimke Illini Illini Football Illinois Illinois Fighting Illini Illinois Fighting Illini Football Illinois Football Illinois-Missouri Rivalry Indiana Indiana Football Indiana Hoosiers Jason Ford Michigan State Michigan State Football Michigan State Spartans Mikel Leshoure Missouri Missouri Tigers Football Nathan Scheelhaase NIU Football Ohio State Paul Petrino Penn State Penn State Football Penn State Nittany Lions Football Ron Zook Nathan Scheelhaase SIU Football Troy Pollard University Of Illinois Vic Koenning Writing Illini

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