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