MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Michigan State didn't let the thrill of beating Michigan last week deter the momentum. Coach Mark Dantonio and his staff weren't even worried about a letdown at Minnesota. Confidence is high, and so is the ambition. L.J. Scott returned from an injury to carry the ball 25 times for a career-high 194 yards and two touchdowns , helping the 21st-ranked Spartans hang on for a 30-27 victory over Minnesota on a soggy Saturday night after kickoff was delayed 34 minutes by lightning strikes. "We've always found a way to get guys going," said Dantonio, who gave his players a "10 out of 10" for their approach. "We've always found a way to get guys coming to every football game ready to play." Madre London pitched in 74 yards rushing and a score, Matt Coghlin made three field goals and the Spartans (5-1, 3-0 Big Ten) followed their win over the rival Wolverines with a solid performance fueled by their offensive line and the smooth running of … [Read more...] about Great Scott: MSU runs over Minnesota, hangs on for 30-27 win
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The Illinois offense is ranked last in the Big Ten. Don’t blame the running game. Even in a 45-16 blowout loss to Iowa last weekend, Illinois rushed for 200 yards at Kinnick Stadium — the second-highest total the Hawkeyes have allowed this season. It was only the second time Illinois has rushed for over 100 yards this season, and it was the first time reaching 200 yards since last year’s 24-7 victory over Rutgers — the opponent this Saturday. Mike Epstein led the Illini with seven carries for 83 yards, including a career-high 58-yard dash in the second quarter. Reggie Corbin also toted the ball seven times for 61 yards, and Ra’Von Bonner chipped in with 49 yards and Illinois’ only rushing touchdown. “You need more than one (running) back,” coach Lovie Smith said. “(In) an ideal world, most of the time we’re going to play about three. They were all productive.” Epstein’s outing was another … [Read more...] about Illinois hoping to ride running attack to win vs Rutgers
IOWA CITY, Iowa — For the first time in nine years, Iowa is 0-2 in the Big Ten. What a perfect time for the Hawkeyes to host Illinois. Iowa (3-2, 0-2) couldn’t have asked for a better situation ahead of its bye week than facing the Fighting Illini (2-2, 0-1) on Saturday — at least on paper. The Hawkeyes are surprisingly just 12th in the Big Ten in rushing offense, but Illinois is last in the league in rushing defense. The Illini are also last in the conference in scoring at just 17.8 points per game, while Iowa is allowing less than 13 points a game at home. The Hawkeyes throttled Illinois 28-0 in Champaign a year ago, and they enter Saturday’s game as an 18-point favorite despite averaging just 14.5 points a game in the Big Ten. But Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz wasn’t too pleased with how his team looked in last weekend’s 17-10 loss at Michigan State. “Just overall developing a kind of confidence and grit it takes to be successful home or away (is … [Read more...] about Sluggish Iowa hosts struggling Illinois in border rivalry
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Illinois has seen this before, a quarterback with “George” on the jersey atop the depth chart at quarterback. With his team ranked last in the Big Ten in total offense and just 73 points through four games, coach Lovie Smith has made Jeff George Jr. the No. 1 quarterback nearly 30 years after George’s father ran the Illini offense on the way to becoming the top pick in the NFL draft. Chayce Crouch started the first four games but has thrown only one touchdown pass along with four interceptions. His quarterback rating of 93.7, last in the Big Ten among players with at least 14 pass attempts. George has only appeared in one game this season, passing for 211 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions in the second half of a 47-23 loss to South Florida. He played in five games a year ago, starting four of them because of injuries to Wes Lunt and Crouch, and had 470 passing yards, four TDs and five interceptions. During his starts, the team went … [Read more...] about Illini turn to Jeff George Jr. at quarterback
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Jeff George Jr. has been named the starting quarterback at Illinois, which is off to a middling start behind the Big Ten’s worst offense. Chayce Crouch started in the Illini’s first four games, but after a 28-6 loss to Nebraska, coach Lovie Smith decided to change things up with his team averaging just under 20 points per game going into Saturday’s game at Iowa (3-2, 0-2 Big Ten). “Some positions you try to stay the course as much as you possibly can,” Smith said Monday. “But you kind of have to look at what’s going on the field.” Crouch threw for just 99 yards and had several errant passes against the Cornhuskers. So far this season, he only has two 100-yard passing games and hasn’t thrown a touchdown since Week One against Ball State. George appeared in five games last season and started four. During that span, he racked up 470 passing yards, four touchdowns and five interceptions. This season, he has only … [Read more...] about Illinois benching Crouch for QB Jeff George Jr.
All eyes will be on the quarterbacks when Nebraska and Illinois meet on Friday night in Champaign, Illinois. It might not be pretty. The Cornhuskers (2-2, 1-0 Big Ten) and Illini (2-1, 0-0) have been hamstrung by shoddy quarterback play so far. Nebraska coach Mike Riley continues to voice strong support for Tanner Lee as his starter. Illinois coach Lovie Smith said he’s sticking with Chayce Crouch, though Jeff George Jr. did play all but one series of the second half in the Illini’s last game. Lee’s 52.1-percent completion rate ranks 12th in the Big Ten, and his nine interceptions are most in the nation. Three of his five interceptions in the last two games were returned for touchdowns. There’s plenty of blame to spread around. He’s been under pressure, having taken six sacks and getting hurried 14 times. He’s had bad luck on at least two of the picks, with one glancing off the receiver’s helmet and into the defender’s hands and another … [Read more...] about Huskers, Illini looking for sharper QB play when they meet
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — When Lovie Smith became the head coach at Illinois, it was clear that he was taking over a struggling program. In his first year of his rebuilding project, the Illini went 3-9 and won only two games in the Big Ten. Throughout the season, Smith relied heavily on upperclassmen, but this time around he’s placed a lot of responsibility on his younger players. Illinois has 101 players on its roster and more than half are underclassmen, including 54 freshmen. Many of those freshmen played in the season-opening victory over Ball State and since then the number has only increased. Against Western Kentucky, Smith set a school record by starting seven true freshmen. The following week, he started 10 against No. 18 South Florida. To Smith, any focus on a freshman starter should be put on the preparation. “First off, we had to go through a pregame routine with them and what we do on game days,” Smith said. “We had to teach them how you come out from … [Read more...] about Smith relying on youth to turn around Illinois