Comeback Win For Illinois Stuns Spartans In Fourth Quarter

Nov 9, 2019

The Michigan State Spartans were defeated by the Illinois Fighting Illini, 37-34, as the team lost its fourth straight game and fell to 4-5 on the season.  

MSU senior defensive tackle Raequan Williams talks with reporters after the MSU football loss at the hands of Illinois.
Credit Al Martin / WKAR-MSU

In a game that looked initially as if it would be a rout for the Spartans, Illinois rallied back from a 28-3 deficit. The Spartans had several opportunities to put the game away late, but a 37 yard completion on 4th and 17 put the Fighting Illini in the red zone before eventually cashing in the game winning touchdown. 

"We brought pressure, and I think we hit the quarterback," Dantonio said. "Receiver made a nice play, you've got to credit Illinois, they kept playing."

The Fighting Illini scored the game winning touchdown with five seconds left, as quarterback Brandon Peters found tight end Daniel Barker in the back of the endzone. The Spartans seemed to stop the Fighting Illini to put the game away two plays earlier, but a pass interference on fourth and goal gave Illinois a fresh set of downs on the two yard line. MSU managed just two field goals the entire second half.

"Extremely disappointed," head coach Mark Dantonio said. "One of the tougher games that we've experienced, certainly." 

MSU junior linebacker Antjuan Simmons taking questions.
Credit Al Martin / WKAR-MSU

The Spartans outgained the Fighting Illini by over 100 yards and had 27 first downs to Illinois' 16. MSU running back Elijah Collins rushed for 170 yards on 28 carries and scored two touchdowns in the game. Collins now has five touchdowns this season. 

The Spartans offense started quickly, scoring 28 points in the first half as MSU did not trail during the first 59 minutes and 55 seconds of the game. The Spartans scored just 17 points during the month of October.

Dantonio was later asked what he would say to fans and alums to convince them that MSU's current losing streak is an aberration and not a trend. 

"Next question."

Illinois sparked its rally by scoring a 46 yard touchdown on a deep pass from Peters to wide receiver Josh Imatorbhebhe as the first half expired. Peters finished with 369 yards passing, three touchdowns and one interception. Imatorbhebhe had four catches for 178 yards and two touchdowns. 

MSU senior quarterback Brian Lewerke talks with reporters.
Credit Al Martin / WKAR-MSU

The Spartans finished with four turnovers in the game as quarterback Brian Lewerke threw three interceptions, including one for a touchdown in the fourth quarter that would have tied the game if not for a missed extra point by Illinois. 

Illinois improves to 6-4 with the win, and is now bowl eligible for the first time since 2014. 

The Spartans will next travel to Ann Arbor to take on the Wolverines on Saturday, Nov. 16. The team will then close out its season by traveling to Rutgers and then by hosting Maryland in the season finale.