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HALF: Michigan State leads No. 14 Illinois 9-7

November 5, 2022
<p>Senior center Nick Samac (59) snaps the ball during the first half of a game against Illinois at Memorial Stadium on Nov. 5, 2022.</p>

Senior center Nick Samac (59) snaps the ball during the first half of a game against Illinois at Memorial Stadium on Nov. 5, 2022.

After a hectic week following the events that took place in Ann Arbor last weekend, Michigan State football has made it to Champaign, Illinois for another Big Ten matchup. The Spartans currently lead 9-7 against Illinois.

Here’s a look at how they have performed in the first half of play.

Everyone getting involved on offense

With a less than stellar start to the season, the offense needed to make a statement early to make this game competitive. Instead, redshirt junior quarterback Payton Thorne threw an interception on the very first play of the game trying to find Illinois transfer tight end Daniel Barker.

Luckily for the Spartans, the defense was able to get the stop on fourth down in the red zone and the Illini came up empty handed. MSU was able to come back from that miserable start and string together some plays that sustained the drive all the way to the other side of the field.

The Illini have had solid coverage on the Spartan receivers, forcing Thorne to throw to his running backs and tight ends, including redshirt sophomore Maliq Carr who got himself open and found space for some much needed yards.

In order to do this, they needed to switch it up a little bit. Thorne took it himself four times for a total of eight yards and running backs, redshirt senior Elijah Collins and redshirt sophomore Jalen Berger led the team in receiving yards at the end of the first quarter with 24 and 13 yards respectively.

The Spartans decided to go for a rare field goal attempt on fourth down and junior kicker Ben Patton kicked just the second field goal of the season to bring MSU within four.

In the red zone again and running out of downs, Thorne took time and collected himself before throwing to redshirt junior wide receiver Tre Mosley for a touchdown to gain a two point lead.

Depleted defense able to keep Chase Brown's impact to a minimum

After losing eight defensive players to suspensions and a few others to first half injuries, expectations were low for the Spartan defense, especially while lining up against the FBS leader in rushing yards, junior running back Chase Brown.

Brown finished with 74 yards in the first half. He got off to a hot start to get the Illini into the red zone after Thorne’s interception, but was unable to finish the drive in the end zone.

For how diminished the defense is, MSU has done an excellent job of keeping Brown's impact to a minimum. Even when he is able to get through, they've been able to get a stop or force a turnover to make sure his yardage doesn't add to the score.

The Illini handed it off to their star running back once again in the second quarter, but he was popped by taken down by fifth-year safety Xavier Henderson, who threw his body at just the right spot to knock the ball from Brown’s arms and onto the field where it was recovered by the Spartans.

Injuries continue to plague the defensive line

MSU's defense has struggled to stay healthy all year long and with eight players suspended, they can't afford any more injuries.

Junior defensive end Jeff Pietrowski Jr. did not dress for today's game and has been struggling with an injury on and off throughout the season.

Redshirt senior defensive tackle Jacob Slade, redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Simeon Barrow Jr. and redshirt sophomore defensive end Avery Dunn all went down with injuries in the final minutes of the first half. Their status will likely have a big impact on the defensive performance going into the second half of play.

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