The difficult season continued for the Michigan State Spartans Saturday afternoon as they fell just short against the Illinois Fighting Illini by a final score of 31-27.
The game turned into a shootout in the closing quarter, even after Damion Terry replaced an injured Tyler O’Connor at quarterback. For the home team, Jeff George Jr. led some crucial late drives after having a rough day for much of the game.
But things didn’t start that way.
With a minute to go in the first half, the score was just 6-0 in favor of MSU.
The contest turned ugly when Illinois’ Kendrick Foster ran for a 19-yard touchdown with just 14 seconds left in the second quarter, giving his team a 7-6 lead at the break.
It’s been that kind of year for MSU, who had played lights-out defense almost the entire half.
Check out this stat:
2016 is the literal worst. https://t.co/r4v0TOjfUq— The Only Colors (@TheOnlyColors) November 5, 2016
The Spartans tacked on a third field goal in the third quarter, but as we all know, failing to finish off drives with touchdowns will come back to bite you.
Foster hit for a 64-yard touchdown to regain the lead for his team, and the Illini followed that up with a field goal barely a minute later and suddenly it was an eight-point game with Illinois leading 17-9.
O’Connor stepped up in a big way in leading his team to a touchdown right at the end of the third quarter. Gerald Holmes capped off the effort with a six-yard score and R.J. Shelton hit with the two-point conversion to make it a tie ballgame.
But, yea, Illinois scored again, this time a one-yard pas from George to Ainslie Johnson to regain a touchdown advantage.
Terry then took over for O’Connor, who played a good game despite the lack of run support, after the senior quarterback was injured on a successful QB sneak.
Terry led the offense to yet another field goal, again getting points on the board but only closing the gap to four in the fourth quarter.
After getting the ball back, Terry led the team on a great touchdown drive that for a minute looked like it could be a game winner.
A dropped pass by Josiah Price led to a crucial fourth-down play, which RJ Shelton was able to convert into a 13-yard score. It was also the first touchdown pass of Terry’s career.
But Illinois had one more shot down three with about three minutes to play in the game. And the Illini made the most of it with a George pass to Sam Mays for a 16-yard touchdown. Just like that the script was flipped and it was Terry trying to lead a scoring drive on short time.
With 15 seconds left, Illinois decided to burn all of its timeouts in a row for some reason. Whether that made a difference or not, the Illinois defense held up and picked up the 31-27 win for the team.
Not only was this another painful loss, Michigan State also struggled with injuries during the game, with Riley Bullough, Malik McDowell, O’Connor and Brian Allen all having to exit the contest.
The Spartans will not be going to a bowl game the year after appearing in the College Football Playoff, and the team is on its first seven-game losing streak since 1982.
It has not been fun for Spartan Nation and at this point, all eyes are solidly on the 2017 season.
Silver lining: LOTS of PT for Dantonio to sell on the recruiting trail— AustinCSmith (TOC) (@ACSmith06) November 5, 2016