Slipping the Trap: How MSU Will Beat Illinois

Michigan State continues to build an impressive resume this season, handing Michigan its third straight loss to the Spartans and first of the season, holding Denard Robinson to "only" 301 total yards. 

Michigan State's offense also demonstrated ruthless efficiency in its balanced attack, scoring on 6 of 11 drives and averaging 3.09 points per drive; but also being able to go into clock-killing, life-choking mode at the end of the game (even though MSU only had a 17-point lead, it was as good as a 30-point lead in terms of being insurmountable).

Illinois is really somewhat of an enigma this year.  Illinois has faced two tough opponents, both at home, and have kept it close but lost both times (23-13 to then-unranked Missouri, and 24-13 to then-#2 Ohio State).  Illinois has the requisite wins over Directional Illinois schools; one an FCS cupcake, one a pretty decent MAC team.  So far Illinois' signature win was in Happy Valley over Penn State, but this appears to be as much a factor of Penn State's novice offense coupled with a terribly depleted defense.

Illinois freshman quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase had impressive numbers against Penn State's depleted secondary (15-19, 151 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT).  However that was a career day for him;  he is currently ranked 96th out of 100 nationally for passer rating (108.83).  Illinois' offense is primarily a run-based, hammering offense.  Running back Mikel Leshoure is #9 nationally in yards per game (121.20 YPG) , but #88 in yards per carry (5.77 YPC).

The difference this year for Illinois has been the improvement on defense. 



2010 2009
Points per Game Allowed (rank) 17.0 (21) 30.2 (96)
Rush yards/attempt Allowed (rank) 3.68 (T-41) 4.23 (T-78)
Rush yards/game Allowed (rank) 117.0 (32) 154.42 (75)
Pass yards/attempt Allowed (rank) 6.1 (T-26) 8.0 (T-99)
Pass yards/game Allowed (rank) 187.8 (T-37) 248.8 (100)


Overall, that could be considered a pretty nice defense....nice defense.....nice defense you got there, coach.....

[CUE harp music and wavy scene transition]

[SCENE:  Interior of a football coach's office, mid-day.  COACHRONZOOK sits at a messy desk, holding up and intently studying a football playbook; the cover of the book says "FUTBALL PLAYBOK".   Cut to POV behind the coach to reveal that the inside of the book is actually a waterskiing apparel catalog.  Shift focus to POV through the glass office door, we can see ASSISTANT COACH Vic Koenning leading two men to the door, then knocking and entering.]

Assistant Coach: Two civilian gentlemen to see you sir!

COACHRONZOOK: Show them in please, Vic.

Assistant Coach: Mr Dino Vercotti and Mr Luigi Vercotti.

(The Vercotti brothers enter. They wear Mafia suits and dark glasses.)

Dino: Good morning, Coach.

COACHRONZOOK: Good morning gentlemen. Now what can I do for you.

Luigi(looking round office casually)  You''ve got a nice football defense here, Coach.


Luigi: We wouldn't want anything to happen to it.


Dino: No, what my brother means is it would be a shame if... (he knocks a plaster casting of a kid's handprint with "World's Greatest Coach" and "Rose Bowl 2nd Place" finger-painted on it off mantel)


Dino: Oh sorry, Coach.

COACHRONZOOK: Well don't worry about that. But please do sit down.

Luigi: No, we prefer to stand, thank you, Coach.

COACHRONZOOK: All right. All right. But what do you want?

Dino: What do we want, ha ha ha.

Luigi: Ha ha ha, very good, Coach.

Dino: The Coach's a joker, Luigi.

Luigi: Explain it to the Coach, Dino.

Dino: How many linebackers you got, Coach?

COACHRONZOOK: About thirteen altogether.

Luigi: Thirteen linebackers, eh?

Dino: You ought to be careful, Coach.

COACHRONZOOK: We are careful, extremely careful.

Dino: 'Cos things break, don't they?


Luigi: Well everything breaks, don't it Coach. (he breaks papier-mache "National Championship Trophy" on desk) Oh dear.

Dino: Oh see my brother's clumsy Coach, and when he gets unhappy he breaks things. Like say, he don't feel the University's playing fair by him, he may start breaking things, Coach.

COACHRONZOOK: What is all this about?

Luigi: How many men you got on defense, Coach?

COACHRONZOOK: Oh, er... nineteen defensive backs, twelve defensive linemen, thirteen linebackers, and er, a punter.

Luigi:  Punter, Dino.

Dino: Be a shame if someone was to set fire to him.

COACHRONZOOK: Set fire to him?

Luigi: Fires happen, Coach.

Dino: Things burn.

COACHRONZOOK: Look, what is all this about?

Dino: My brother and I have got a little proposition for you, Coach.

Luigi: Could save you a lot of bother.

Dino: I mean you're doing all right this season, aren't you, Coach?

Luigi: Well suppose some of your linebackers was to get broken and defensive backs started getting lost, er, fights started breaking out on the sidelines, like.

Dino: It wouldn't be good for the season, would it, Coach?

COACHRONZOOK: Are you threatening me?

Dino: Oh, no, no, no.

Luigi: Whatever made you think that, Coach?

Dino: The Coach doesn't think we're nice people, Luigi.

Luigi: We're your buddies, Coach.

Dino: We want to look after you.

COACHRONZOOK: Look after me?

Luigi: We can guarantee you that not a single defensive tackle will get done over for a fifteen-point loss at Michigan State.


Luigi: Twelve points.


Luigi: Eight point loss... five point come-from-behind loss...

COACHRONZOOK: No, no this is silly.

Dino: What's silly?

COACHRONZOOK: No, the whole premise is silly and it's very badly written. I'm the Coach here and I haven't had a funny line yet. So I'm stopping it.

Dino: You can't do that!

COACHRONZOOK: I've done it. The sketch is over.

[CUE harp music and wavy scene transition]

Well, that won't work.  OK, then, fine.  MSU plays its same grind-it-out style.  Illinois did well slowing Ohio State's balanced attack, but still was not able to stop it.  Scheelhaase reverts to the mean against an improving MSU defense, even with freshman Darqueze Dennard replacing the suspended Chris L. Rucker at cornerback.  MSU, 24-10.


[Army Protection Racket script H/