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Michigan State 42, Illinois 3: Kneejerk Reactions

Quick thoughts on a dominant MSU victory.

Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

1. If you have any complaints about this game, you are a crazy person. MSU outgained Illinois 477-128.  477-128!  This was one of the most comprehensive conference wins under Mark Dantonio.  MSU thoroughly outclassed Illinois in every facet of the game: the offense scored touchdowns on six of its eight meaningful possessions (and came within a fumble of making that seven of eight), and the defense was utterly dominant against a halfway-decent offense.  Special teams didn't play much of a role here, but Mike Sadler uncorked a terrific punt early in the game, which helped to stymie some of Illinois' early momentum.  Yes, the Illini are terrible, but who cares?  This is what good teams are supposed to do to bad teams.

2.  MSU will go as far as Connor Cook can take them. The last two weeks show this very clearly.  Illinois and Purdue are probably equally terrible teams.  Cook was bad against Purdue, and the offense struggled mightily.  Today, he was nearly flawless, and the offense scored at will.  Cook went 15-for-16 for 208 yards, with 3 touchdowns and no interceptions.  (His fumble into the endzone was the only lowlight of the afternoon for MSU, but he more than made up for that miscue.)  Indeed, Cook's only truly bad throw of the game still turned out perfectly:


Yep, that kind of day.  (Courtesy of @worldofisaac.)

When Cook plays badly, the offense is terrible.  When he plays well, the running game gets some breathing space and MSU generally rolls -- and Good Connor has shown up in three of the past four games.  That's certainly not enough of a sample size to conclude that last week was an aberration, but it's impossible not to notice the improvement here.

3.  The defense: still demolishing worlds. Illinois rushed 21 times for 24 yards.  That's 1.2 yards per carry.  Take away one Josh Ferguson 21-yard carry against the second-team defense, and you have 20 carries for 3 yards.  Illinois moved the ball well early because of some very good throws by Nathan Scheelhaase, but the defense limited the Illini to a field goal.  Then, in the second quarter, when it looked like MSU was about to go down 10-7, the defense stiffened in a big way, stopping Illinois on third and fourth down from the MSU one yard line.  MSU's offense proceeded to go on a 99-yard, eight minute touchdown drive, and all of a sudden, a probable 10-7 deficit became a 14-3 lead at halftime. From that point forward, Illinois never really threatened -- indeed, the Illini had -9 net yards in the third quarter. I'm running out of superlatives to describe this performance, so just click here and let another @worldofisaac .gif demonstrate the dominance.

All season long, people have been saying that this is the finest MSU defense since the 1999 Citrus Bowl-winning squad.  It's time to consider dropping the caveat.



Discuss, and let's have some fun this week.