Jeff George Jr. and the Illini defense pulled off a comeback that no doubt made the elder George's day.
George Jr. threw a touchdown pass with 1:25 left to take the lead, and with 19 seconds left Illinois' defense came up with a fourth-down stop at its own 15 to pull out a 31-27 win.
George was just 13-29 for 140 yards, but he had two touchdown passes. The second touchdown was the 16-yard strike to Sam Mays that sealed the win.
Kendrick Foster had 17 carries for 146 yards and two touchdowns, the second a 64-yarder. He has three scores of 56 yards or more this season, all of that after almost leaving the program last November.
The victory was Illinois' (3-6, 2-4 Big Ten) first over the Spartans since 2006, and ended a two-game losing streak.
The Spartans (2-7, 0-6) have lost seven straight, are off to their worst Big Ten start ever and are assured of a losing season. They dominated the game on paper, outgaining Illinois 490-304. Eight times Michigan State moved the ball to the Illinois 36-yard line or further, but turned those possessions into just two touchdowns and four field goals. Michigan State's 10 penalties for 89 yards hurt.
The Illini head to Madison to face the No. 8 Badgers on Saturday.
>>Illinois State Holds On To Beat Western Illinois
Jake Kolbe threw a career-best four touchdown passes and Anthony Warrum had two TD catches for the second consecutive game, helping Illinois State outlast Western Illinois 31-26 on Saturday.
After an opening three-and-out, Kolbe found Warrum, who had seven receptions for 152 yards, for a 58-yard score. Later he connected with Anthony Fowler from 15 yards out as the Redbirds (5-5, 3-4 Missouri Valley) led 14-0 after the first quarter.
Western Illinois (6-3, 3-3) scored on Lance Lenoir's 54-yard punt return and a Sean McGuire TD pass to Jamie Gilmore in the second, sandwiched between Warrum's second TD catch, this one for 50 yards.
After a Western Illinois field goal cut Illinois State's lead to 21-19, Kolbe's fourth TD pass - a 7-yarder to Christian Gibbs with 3:20 left in the third - increased the Redbirds' cushion to 28-19.
McGuire's second TD pass in the fourth quarter cut the lead 31-26. He finished with 312 yards passing.
>>Southern Illinois Beats South Dakota
Southern Illinois made two game-ending stops on Saturday to hold off South Dakota 35-28 and win its first Missouri Valley Football Conference game of the season.
It also gave sophomore quarterback Sam Straub a win in his first starting assignment for the Salukis. Straub threw for 339 yards and two touchdowns and ran for a team-high 68 yards and a score. He completed 19 of 34 passes without an interception.
After stopping the Coyotes (4-5, 3-3) on third-and-goal as time ran out, players from both teams left the field and coaches were doing interviews before being called back and one second put back on the clock.
Chris Streveler's fourth-down pass was also incomplete and the Salukis escaped with the win.
Playing in his third game of the season, Straub had completed just one of five passes for 20 yards in two previous games.
Straub threw TD passes of 31 yards to Israel Lamprakes and 7 yards to Hans Carmien.
>>UT-Martin Rolls Eastern Illinois
As heard on WHOW Saturday afternoon, Ladevin Fair and Jaimiee Bowe combined for 122 yards rushing and three touchdowns and UT Martin beat Eastern Illinois 33-17 on Saturday.
Fair, who had a pair of 5-yard touchdown runs, rushed for 60 yards on 17 carries and added four receptions for 24 yards. Bowe's 2-yard scoring run capped a 10-play, 79-yard drive and gave the Skyhawks (6-4, 5-1 Ohio Valley) the lead, 13-7, for good with 5:18 left in the first half.
Devin Church scored on a 27-yard run that trimmed the Eastern Illinois (5-5, 3-4) deficit to 23-17 with 6:32 remaining. But UTM answered with a nine-play drive that lasted 3 minutes, 57 seconds and resulted in a 42-yard field goal by Mitch Mersman.
On Eastern Illinois' next offensive play from scrimmage, Kahlid Hagens intercepted a pass and returned it 52 yards for a touchdown that made it 33-17.
The Panthers outgained UTM 297-253 but committed seven turnovers, including four interceptions.
Church finished 13 carries for 101 yards.