Illinois comeback sends Michigan State to 7th straight loss

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CHAMPAIGN, IL - NOVEMBER 05: Felton Davis III #18 of the Michigan State Spartans runs the ball during the game against the Illinois Fighting Illini at Memorial Stadium on November 5, 2016 in Champaign, Illinois. Illinois defeated Michigan State 31-27. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Michigan State suffered its seventh straight loss as Illinois rallied for a 31-27 victory in a battle of 2-6 Big Ten college football teams Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

Even thought the Spartans entered the contest mired in a six-game losing streak, they still came into the game as a 7 1/2-point favorite.

Michigan State jumped out to a quick 3-0 advantage early in the opening stanza on Michael Geiger’s 46-yard field goal. That score stood up until the end of the first period as the two teams traded possessions on into and through most of the second quarter.

The Spartans eventually increased their lead to 6-0 on a 34-yard field goal by Geiger with 2:35 showing on the clock until intermission. Coach Lovie Smith’s Illini responded by taking a 7-6 edge at halftime on an 11-yard run by running back Kendrick Foster with just 14 seconds to go, which finished up a 73-yard drive as time wound down.

Michigan State raced out of the locker room and retook the lead on a 28-yard Geiger field goal with 11:25 showing on the clock. But Illinois and Foster came right back with a 64-yard TD run for a 14-9 Illini bulge. Illinois then recovered an MSU fumble and tacked on a 42-yard field goal for a 17-9 advantage with 8:56 remaining in the third.

With just 1:20 left in the third period, the Spartans closed to within 17-15 when Gerald Holmes scored on a 6-yard touchdown run. Tyler O’Connor then hit R.J. Shelton with a pass for the two-point conversion and a 17-17 tie.

The third quarter ended that way.

Illinois raced right out to a 24-17 lead to start off the finale, after a 70-yard drive concluded with a 1-yard scoring aerial from Jeff George Jr. to tight end Ainslie Johnson.

Geiger booted his fourth field goal — a 29-yarder — to close the gap to 24-20 at the 6:45 mark. The Spartans then regained control 27-24 on a fourth-and-four-yards-to-go situation at the 13-yard line when Damion Terry hit Shelton with a touchdown pass with 2:52 showing on the clock.

But once again Illinois rallied right back for a 31-27 lead on a George touchdown pass with 1:35 left to play. That set the final scoring margin as Michigan State drove but was unable to score.

The Spartans are now 2-7 overall and 0-6 in the Big Ten. MSU’s next action will be next Saturday at home against Rutgers.

Illinois is now 3-6 overall and stands 2-4 against Big Ten opposition. Its next test also will be next Saturday with a trip to Wisconsin.

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