For second week in a row, Turner shuffles quarterbacks

Carol Matteucci

Carol Matteucci

By Lisa Koulias

EAST LANSING, Mich. – Illinois head coach Ron Turner isn’t blaming quarterback Jon Beutjer for the Illini’s lack of a passing offense.

And when Turner took Beutjer out of the game in the second half and played sophomore Chris Pazan, he was only looking for someone to get the passing offense going.

Beutjer was 10-of-14 for 96 yards in the first half and helped lead the Illini to their first touchdown.

“His numbers weren’t bad; it was just a matter of seeing if someone else could give us a little more of a spark,” Turner said. “We weren’t making plays down the field and I’m not putting all that blame on Jon, either, that’s for sure. Chris played well last week and we wanted to see if he could come in and do something.”

Pazan, who saw action for the first time this season against Wisconsin last week, was only 5-of-11 for 48 yards. But the offense, led by running back Pierre Thomas, came to life and moved the ball more efficiently downfield.

“I was ready to go, whether he was going to call me or not,” Pazan said. “It felt good. They were running the ball really well and the guys up front were blocking really well, too. Coming out right away and putting that drive down (was great).”

Illinois’ 38-25 loss left Turner in a position similar to last week’s, deciding who he should name as quarterback for next Saturday’s game against Michigan.

Against Wisconsin a week earlier, Turner played three quarterbacks to see who was the most efficient. After reviewing tapes, he chose to start Beutjer once again.

“I’m not prepared right now to say what we’re going to do. I just know we need to play better in the passing game,” Turner said. “We need to make more plays in the passing game, quarterback and receivers and protection-wise.

“We did some good things in our running game, but we’ve got to be able to make some plays in the passing game. That has hurt us the last two weeks regardless of who is the quarterback.”

Unsure about E.B.

Thomas had no trouble running to a career-best 188 yards. And it’s a good thing because teammate E.B. Halsey was on the sidelines nursing a strained MCL in his left knee.

Halsey played the first two quarters of the game, but Illinois’ leading rusher left the game sometime in the second quarter after running for only 10 yards and catching 2 passes for 15 yards.

Turner said he didn’t know how long Halsey would be out.

Play of the game

With 3:47 left in the first quarter, Michigan State pulled out a trick play when wide receiver Jerramy Scott hit quarterback Drew Stanton with an 18-yard pass for a touchdown. It was Scott’s first career pass and Stanton’s first career reception.

“I was wide open and I just kept thinking, ‘Don’t drop it. Don’t drop it,'” Stanton said. “I just made sure I caught it and got in the end zone. That was a great throw by Jerramy Scott.”

“We worked on that play a lot in practice,” Scott said. “When it was called in the game, I was really shocked, but everything turned out fine. I threw the pass pretty well in practice, but it turned out nice in the game.”

Quote of the game

“We’re not out here to prove that we can play people tough; we are out here to win games. The whole game we knew we were in it. We’re coming up short, and we need to learn to get past it.”

– Illinois center Duke Preston