Turnovers Topple Illini
By JIM PAUL
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Jeff Smoker was 23-of-31 for 317 yards and two touchdowns and No. 21 Michigan State converted three Illinois turnovers into TDs in a 49-14 victory Saturday.
Tyrell Dortch, a junior who missed all of last season while recovering from a broken leg, scored on runs of 1 and 4 yards, the first two TDs of his college career.
The Spartans (6-1, 3-0 Big Ten) scored twice after intercepting Jon Beutjer's passes deep in Illini territory. The first, by Eric Smith in the second quarter led to Dortch's first TD, a 1-yard run on fourth down that gave Michigan State a 14-7 lead.
Jason Harmon intercepted Beutjer's pass late in the third quarter and ran it back to the Illini 12. After a holding penalty, Smoker connected with Aaron Alexander from 21 yards out to give the Spartans a 35-7 lead with 14:26 to go. Harmon scored on a 52-yard fumble return with 6:29 to play.
Smoker also threw a 15-yard TD pass to Jerramy Scott as the Spartans won their fourth straight game. Jaren Hayes scored Michigan State's first touchdown on a 1-yard run and led the Spartans in rushing with 56 yards on 12 carries.
Illinois (1-6, 0-3) lost its fifth straight. Beutjer was replaced by freshman Chris Pazan early in the fourth quarter after completing 19 of 27 passes for 146 yards and a touchdown.
After Harmon's fumble return put the Spartans up 49-7, Pazan led the Illini on an 80-yard, 15-play drive, capped by his 6-yard touchdown pass to E.B. Halsey. Pazan was 7-of-11 for 67 yards, and Halsey had 19 carries for 75 yards.
The Illini held the ball for 11:06 of the quarter, more than eight minutes on a 15-play, 84-yard drive, capped by Beutjer's 9-yard scoring pass to Mark Kornfield on the first play of the second quarter.
But Smith's interception on the first play of the next Illinois possession took the life out of the Illini offense.
Illinois' John Gockman missed field-goal attempts of 48 and 51 yards in the first half.