EAST LANSING - Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio wanted to see his team display maturity against Illinois in the Spartans' first game after facing Top 25 opponents in back-to-back weeks. That is what the fourth-year Spartan head coach saw during Michigan State's 26-6 win over the Big Ten's most improved team from one year ago.
"The thing I wanted to see out of our football team was maturity," said Dantonio. "When you can handle adversity and come back in the second half, you show a lot of maturity in that area. I guess we'll congratulate them on that. Illinois has a good football team. They ran the ball efficiently the first half. They played good defense and they are a well-coached football team."
Illinois was the first team to hold Michigan State under 100 yards on the ground this season. The Spartans came into the game averaging 217 yards rushing per game. Michigan State rushed for just 93 yards against the best rush defense they've seen in 2010.
Michigan State did not find success on the ground until the fourth quarter when sophomore Larry Caper moved the ball effectively against a tiring Illinois front seven.
"We have run the ball effectively for six games, but this one not as well," said Dantonio. "I do think that in the fourth quarter Larry Caper got the hot hand. He was the hot back today. When you have three guys that can make plays, it's a good thing."
With the win, Michigan State is off to a 7-0 start for the first time since 1966.
"I think it means that we're getting there," said Dantonio. "When we came here, we didn't want to win one year and out. We didn't want to be a team that won one year and then had three down years. We wanted to recruit with longevity."