Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase (2) throws the ball against Michigan State during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013 at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Ill. (AP Photo/Bradley Leeb)
Updated: October 27, 2013 12:53AM
CHAMPAIGN—Yes, Illinois was able to hang around longer than it did in its previous two games.
But in the end, it wasn’t close. The Illini were no match for Michigan State, which spoiled their homecoming 42-3.
It was the 17th straight Big Ten defeat for Illinois (3-4, 0-3), which will need to pull off a big upset to avoid its 18th straight defeat when it travels to Penn State next week.
The Illini, who had been drilled by Wisconsin (56-32) and Nebraska (39-19) in their first two Big Ten games, were only down 7-3 with the first half winding down. But the Spartans stunned them with a bizarre 29-yard touchdown pass just nine seconds before halftime for a 14-3 lead.
Although the ball was tipped by at least one Illini defender, MSU receiver Bennie Fowler was able to come up with it on a third-and-25 play. That took the wind out of Illinois and an announced crowd of 45,895.
Is half a game better than none? Only through the most orange-colored glasses.
But the Illini will try to build on their ``progress’’ and end their conference drought next month, when they’ll have shots at Indiana, Purdue and Northwestern as well as unbeaten Ohio State.
Meanwhile, despite an offense that keeps opponents in games, Michigan State (7-1, 4-0) remains atop the wobbly Legends Division. With a victory against Michigan on Saturday, the Spartans will put themselves in great position to play in the Big Ten title game.