Illini face Spartans in must-win game

Shira Weissman

Shira Weissman

By Lisa Koulias

Going into East Lansing on Saturday, the Illinois football team is looking for a win. It knows that now it’s crunch time.

With a 2-3 overall record and a 0-2 record in the Big Ten, Saturday’s game against Michigan State (2-3, 1-1) could be a turning point for this Illini team.

“We need to go get a win,” Illini center Duke Preston said. “We are looking at four straight (wins) to go to a bowl game. Pushing the situation to four of five (wins) is a little extreme. We go out to win every game.”

Although the Illini aren’t playing a ranked opponent like they have over the last two weeks in No. 15 Purdue and No. 20 Wisconsin, they still realize they are playing a solid team. They know what they have to do.

“We just want to win football games,” Preston said. “It doesn’t matter what the point spread is or what people think outside of our team. We know what we have. We know what kind of offense we have. We know what kind of defense we have. Knowing what type of game we can put together, given our execution, where we know it can be, it doesn’t matter if we’re favored by 10 or an underdog by 20.”

The Spartans are coming off of a 38-16 loss to Iowa, but Illini head coach Ron Turner has a lot of respect for their offense.

“To keep them out of the end zone, that’s our goal and it’s going to be a challenge,” Turner said. “They are good. They’ve really found themselves and they really know what they want to do. Their quarterback has given them a tremendous spark; you can tell he is definitely the leader.”

Quarterback Drew Stanton not only threw 54 passes in last Saturday’s loss to the Hawkeyes but also rushed for 89 yards. A week earlier, the sophomore ran for 134 yards.

Series standing

Illinois and Michigan Sate square off Saturday for the 40th time. The Spartans lead the all-time series with a 21-16-2 record. Michigan State also leads the series in games played at Spartan Stadium, 11-7-1. The last time the Illini won in East Lansing was in 1989.

Injured Illini

Illinois’ injured list keeps growing. Center Kyle Schnettgoecke is suffering a high ankle sprain and will probably sit out for a week or two, Turner said.

Defensive end Charles Myles will have his knee scoped on Monday. Turner said the injury looks like a meniscus tear, and if that’s it, the sophomore will be out a couple weeks.

Wide receiver Lonnie Hurst, who left Saturday’s game against Wisconsin on crutches, has a torn ACL and will have surgery on Oct. 15. He will be out for the season.

Travis Williams, who saw limited playing time against Wisconsin, is still not 100 percent, Turner said. The free safety, who suffers from a sports hernia, will travel with the team this weekend but only play in an emergency situation.

Double dose of Illinois

Fans traveling to East Lansing to watch the Illini face off against Michigan State can cheer on another Illinois team.

The Illinois women’s swimming and diving team opens its season against the Spartans at 9 a.m. This is the first time since the 1999-2000 season that the Illini have opened their season against a conference opponent.