Champaign, Ill. — Michigan State has been dealing with its share of injuries all season and the list kept growing on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
Before the Spartans took the first snap, the offense already was playing shorthanded as fifth-year senior tackle Kodi Kieler did not play because of an injury suffered late in the week and fifth-year senior wide receiver Monty Madaris was out, as well.
Both made the trip to Illinois but neither suited up. Michigan State did not disclose the nature of the injuries but said both were game-time decisions. Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio did say that Kieler was injured in practice on Thursday.
Those injuries led to more time at wide receiver for redshirt freshman Darrell Stewart and the loss of Kieler had the offensive line shuffling. Sophomore David Beedle started at left tackle in place of Kieler, but he was knocked out of the game with what appeared to be a shoulder injury in the fourth quarter.
Redshirt freshman Cole Chewins took over at left tackle after he had replaced fifth-year senior Miguel Machado at right tackle after several penalties by Machado. Freshman Thiyo Lukusa also played some at right tackle.
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The offensive line mixing and matching continued with an injury to guard Brian Allen, though he returned to the game, and some mistakes by redshirt freshman Tyler Higby at left guard. It led to Brandon Clemons returning from defense at one point to play a series at guard.
“Kodi is a good player but he was unable to go,” Dantonio said. “But we’ve got other guys and they’ve got to grow up. We have a redshirt freshman playing, a true freshman and another redshirt freshman. These guys got to grow up.”
The offensive line was hardly the only spot that dealt with injuries on Saturday. Quarterback Tyler O’Connor got knocked out in the fourth quarter after picking up a first down and went through concussion protocol on the sideline. He did not return.
“I don’t know his status,” Dantonio said. “I don’t think he was concussed.”
Defensive tackle Malik McDowell left the game in the third quarter and had his left ankle heavily taped but did not come back in the game.
“Malik is a good player so obviously we missed him,” Dantonio said. “Brandon Clemons played in there, had a true freshman (Mike Panasiuk) in there, Kevin Williams in there. We’ve got to be able to make plays.”
Safety Montae Nicholson was in uniform but did not play while several more players were injured during the game but returned, including linebacker Riley Bullough, wide receiver Felton Davis and cornerback Darian Hicks.
Senior receiver R.J. Shelton got hurt on first down of the final series and missed the last two plays but was available for interviews after the game and declared himself healthy.
Despite all the injuries, Dantonio wasn’t using them as an excuse for the loss.
“Well, somebody’s gonna play,” he said. “We got some guys banged up, no question.”