(21) Michigan State 49

(6-1, 3-0 Big Ten)

Illinois 14

(1-6, 0-3 Big Ten)

Coverage: ESPN

12:00 PM ET, October 11, 2003

Memorial Stadium (Champaign, IL), Champaign, IL

1 2 3 4 T
#21MSU 7 14 7 2149
ILL 0 7 0 714

Dortch scores 2 TDs, first of his career

Associated Press

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) -- Jeff Smoker had another 300-yard passing game and Michigan State had itself another convincing victory.

"We want to keep this up," said Smoker, who threw for 317 yards and two touchdowns in leading the 21st-ranked Spartans to a 49-14 victory over Illinois on Saturday.

E. B. Halsey

AP Photo

Illinois' E. B. Halsey ran for 59 yards on 14 carries.

"Honestly, I wasn't sure where we would be at this point of the season, but I can say I'm real happy with where we are. We can do something special here."

A year ago, Michigan State went 4-8 and fired coach Bobby Williams. John L. Smith was hired away from Louisville and he has the Spartans (6-1, 3-0 Big Ten) riding a four-game winning streak.

"Our team deserves a lot of credit because they've taken to heart everything we've preached and talked about," said Smith.

A new coach has brought a new attitude, and the players are feeding off Smith's optimistic outlook.

"He's a real charismatic guy, full of energy," said Smoker. "We start to take on that attitude that he has."

Illinois (1-6, 0-3) had three turnovers in losing its fifth straight game.

The Spartans head into the toughest part of their schedule, with games against Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio State and Wisconsin.

Smoker, who completed 23 of 31 passes, had his fourth 300-yard game of the season. He threw TD passes of 15 yards to Jerramy Scott and 21-yards to Aaron Alexander.

Illinois held the ball for more than 11 minutes of the first quarter and tied the score at 7-all early in the second after a 15-play, 84-yard drive. But on the next possession, Eric Smith intercepted a pass by Jon Beutjer and ran it back to the Illini 2. The Spartans scored four plays later to make it 14-7 and were never challenged again.

"That was the play that turned the tide and sealed the deal," said John L. Smith.

Beutjer, 19 of 27 for 146 yards, said he thought his pass was going for a long gain -- for his team.

"I saw clear land and I got all excited, and all of a sudden that safety came out of nowhere," said Beutjer.

Jason Harmon intercepted another pass by Beutjer late in the third quarter and ran it back to the Illini 12. After a holding penalty, Smoker connected with Alexander for a score that put the Spartans ahead 35-7 with 14:26 to go. Harmon scored on a 52-yard fumble return with 6:29 to play.

Tyrell Dortch, a junior who missed all of last season while recovering from a broken leg, scored on runs of 1 and 4 yards, the first two TDs of his college career. Jaren Hayes scored Michigan State's first touchdown on a 1-yard run and led the Spartans in rushing with 56 yards on 12 carries.

Turner said he could see his team deflate after Eric Smith's interception.

"We went into halftime and it was 21-7 and we were doing some good things," said Turner. "I didn't sense the confidence at halftime that you should have when the game is 21-7."

After Harmon's fumble return put the Spartans up 49-7, freshman quarterback Chris Pazan led the Illini on an 80-yard, 15-play drive, capped by his 6-yard touchdown pass to E.B. Halsey.