Lovie Smith—who is no stranger to improbable comebacks—has indeed done it again. The University of Illinois head coach led the squad to a wild comeback win over the Michigan State Spartans on Saturday.
Of course, any time Smith leads a squad to a huge comeback win, what first comes to mind is the Bears' now-infamous comeback win in the desert against the Arizona Cardinals in 2006.
That was the matchup at the University of Phoenix Stadium where the Bears trailed the Cards 20-0 before rallying to finish with a one-point, 24-23 win. That was the first time in Bears franchise history that they were able to win a game after trailing by at least 20 points in the second half. This was the same kind of magic that Lovie conjured up on Saturday night to lead U of I to the monumental win.
At one point during Saturday's game, the Illini were down 28-3 and, shortly thereafter, they were down 31-10 following a 46-yard Brandon Peters touchdown pass to and a Michigan State field goal that stretched their lead to 21 points.
At the end of the third quarter, Michigan State's win probability was a whopping 99.6%.
Spartans quarterback Brian Lewerke, who had two interceptions in the first quarter, rebounded and led the Spartans to two scoring drives in the second quarter. In that period, he had a touchdown pass to Tre Mosley and led MSU to another touchdown drive before the field goal in the third that made the score 31-10 MSU.
That field goal to stretch the lead to 21 was the last MSU score before the start of the Illinois comeback for the ages.
The Illini defense, which was the sixth-worst in the Big Ten in opponents points per game coming into Saturday night, held the Spartans to six second-half points and scored a touchdown on an exciting 76-yard interception return. This set up the stage for Illini quarterback Brandon Peters, who threw two touchdowns in the final frame, including the game-winning five-yard strike to Daniel Barker.
The thrilling comeback win clinches bowl eligibility for the Fighting Illini under Smith, and represents the best stretch of Smith's collegiate career to this point. U of I's has now rattled off four consecutive wins over No. 6 Wisconsin, Purdue, Rutgers and now MSU.
Saturday's comeback victory over the Spartans was the biggest comeback in program history and has set up the Illini for a great close to their season.Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.