CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – Michigan State headed into Saturday’s game at Illinois severely shorthanded on defense.
That was due to eight defensive players being suspended indefinitely for their roles in postgame instances following a loss at Michigan last week while others were out injured.
The Spartans (4-5, 2-4 Big Ten) had more players hurt on Saturday but that didn’t prevent them from pulling off a 23-15 upset win against the Nov. 14 Fighting Illini (7-2, 4-2) at Memorial Stadium.
Illinois coach Bret Bielema insinuated some of those injuries may not have been legitimate when asked about attempting to go quickly on offense while trailing late in the game and that being a larger part of the gameplan overall.
“Well, that was a two-minute offense,” Bielema said after the game. “We go tempo as much – they also set a record for injuries and miraculously everybody came back from all those injuries, so that was a little frustrating, but it’s the game, that’s the way it’s played, that’s what it is. It was really hard for us to get tempo going because they had a lot of players get injured. And when they get injured, it stops the clock, stops the momentum, and it’s just hard to get that going.”
Bielema, whose offense relies primarily on pounding the ball on the ground, was incorrect about all injured Michigan State players returning to the game. Right guard Matt Carrick and defensive tackle Jacob Slade were hurt in the first half and didn’t play again.
Michigan State defensive linemen Dashaun Mallory, Simeon Barrow and Avery Dunn and safety Kendell Brooks were among those injured who returned to play. Multiple Michigan State players who were down injured were booed by Illinois fans.
Illinois, which won six straight heading into Saturday and was favored by 15.5 points, had 441 yards of total offense to 294 for Michigan State but lost a fumble and had five turnovers on downs on a windy day.
“Very disappointed for our players, our fans, our coaching staff but give credit to Michigan State,” Bielema said. “They obviously did enough to win this football game. They did a better job of handling the elements than we did and obviously persevered at the end of the game there with their defense.”
Related Michigan State football stories: