Illinois Turns Corner in Win over Spartans
Sept. 30, 2006
EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) -Jason Reda's 39-yard field goal with 6 seconds remaining lifted Illinois to its first Big Ten win since 2004 on Saturday, a 23-20 victory over struggling Michigan State.
The Illini (2-3, 1-1) snapped a 10-game conference losing streak and ruined Michigan State's homecoming. The Illini had also lost nine straight to the Spartans (3-2, 0-1).
The Illini came to town as 26-point underdogs and the Spartans were hoping to rebound from a discouraging loss to Notre Dame last week.
Freshman quarterback Isiah "Juice" Williams sparked the Illini in just his second career start. He ran for 103 yards on 17 carries. He also completed 9 of 16 passes for 122 yards and a TD, with one interception.
Illinois led 20-10 entering the fourth quarter.
The Spartans cut the lead to 20-17 with the help of a video replay that reversed a fumble call and kept a drive alive at the Illinois 18. After reviewing video, officials ruled that quarterback Drew Stanton's arm had started to move forward and the play was ruled an incomplete pass. On the field, officials had ruled that Illinois' Doug Pilcher had caused and recovered the fumble.
Stanton was hurt on the play, replaced by backup Brian Hoyer. Jehuu Caulcrick scored on a 1-yard TD plunge to cap the drive with 6:42 left.
Illinois couldn't move the ball on its next possession. Michigan State kicker Brett Swenson connected on a 27-yard field goal with 2:46 left to tie the score at 20.
Williams then engineered a 10-play, 58-yard drive to give Reda a shot at the game-winning kick.
Pierre Thomas had 110 yards on 18 carries for the Illini, who notched their first Big Ten win under second-year coach Ron Zook. The Illini's last Big Ten win before Saturday was Nov. 6, 2004 - a 26-22 victory over Indiana.
Illinois had lost 24 of its last 25 conference games entering Saturday's action. The Illini are 6-28 in Big Ten games since winning the conference title in 2001.