Today’s MSU Football game was a tale of two halves. In the first-half, there could not have been more boring football played on the part of either team. Although MSU drove into the red zone numerous times, it came away with only 6 points. After a nifty run by RJ Shelton to make it First and Ten on the Illini 15-yard line, MSU made two- or was it three- penalties to make it 4th and forever. Lots of punts and field-goal attempts.
Talk about a sinking feeling. . . After dominating the first-half, the Spartans allowed an 11-play, 78- yard touchdown drive to end the half. Score: Illinois 7, MSU 6.
The 2nd-half was a real bruiser! MSU lost LJ Scott, Malik McDowell, RJ Shelton and Tyler O’Connor for a substantial part of the afternoon. Of the injured stars, Scott may be the only one able to return to the game. Coaches aren’t saying if Scott was injured seriously or benched due to his earlier fumble which led to an Illinois field goal. Make no bones about it, Scott ran hard. After the injury, Gerald Holmes entered the game and did a nice job. One could say his performance was “Spartan.”
TOC got knocked out of the game and the new concussion protocol was implemented. Very interesting to watch. On a side note, the concussion protocol has changed quite a bit since I suffered what was thought to be a concussion during high school. Alas, TOC didn’t make it back in the game. It’s probably a good thing. Although his stats were okay- 22 for 33, 0 interceptions- there were no touchdowns, three sacks and a ton of vicious hits.
D Terry entered the game at QB and did pretty well. He kept MSU alive with his feet and his arm. His passes weren’t always crisp, but he lofted a pretty ball to the back of the end zone on fourth down where RJ Shelton reached for the heavens and brought it back to earth while “sticking” both feet inbounds to give the Spartans the lead with about three minutes to go. It’s too bad that, on the ensuing drive, Jeff George Junior tossed an easy touchdown pass to Sam Mays who was only “semi-covered” by Linebacker Chris Frey. Frey is a tough and determined player, but he isn’t the ideal coverage man downfield. That was definitely a mismatch and a terrible breakdown of pass coverage by MSU.
There’s got to be an asterisk next to Illinois’ final drive. The men in stripes called two pass interference calls on the safety, Tyson Smith. On the first call, Tyson was in front of the Receiver. For some reason, Smith forced the Illini Receiver out of bounds instead of making a play on the ball. The result: 15 yards, automatic First Down. No argument on that call! The same can’t be said for the 2nd call. JGJ’s pass was in the air; Tyson was in front of the Receiver; there was contact that appeared to be initiated by the Illinois player. Result: Pass interference on Smith; 15 yards, automatic First Down.
It’s tough to dissect the game and explain (or complain) that the outcome would have been different if one or two plays would have gone the other way. But since all of the players are incredibly athletic, there is a fine line between winning and losing.
Spartan penalties killed three potential touchdown drives where MSU had to settle for two field goals and a punt. LJ’s fumble led to a field goal by the Illini that shifted momentum away from MSU. And, finally, the Defense was unable to hold (again) Illinois’ offense in the 2nd-half.
Final Score: Illinois 31 MSU 27
Outlook: The Spartans have three more games. MSU will give Rutgers a run for its money. Barring a miracle, the Spartans will win only one more game this season. MSU Football Season 2016 can’t end fast enough.