Big Ten

After ridiculous finish, Northwestern holds on to beat Badgers

justin-jackson-1121.png

After ridiculous finish, Northwestern holds on to beat Badgers

Despite forcing five Wisconsin turnovers and holding the Badgers to a negative rushing total, it looked like Northwestern was going to lose. It looked that way a couple times, actually.

But thanks to some controversial calls in the game's final seconds, the Cats held on for a narrow 13-7 victory Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium.

Jack Mitchell missed two field goals, and the Northwestern offense couldn't do much with an insane amount of turnovers, getting just 10 points off the five Wisconsin giveaways. But instead of the storyline being about those missed opportunities, the Cats improved to 9-2 and still have a shot at winning more games in a single season than any team in program history.

Northwestern led, 13-7, with Wisconsin driving without a timeout in the game's final minutes. A long pass from Joel Stave to Troy Fumagalli was initially ruled a game-tying touchdown, but a review showed Fumagalli was down at the one-yard line. Shortly thereafter, Stave hit Jazz Peavy in the end zone for an apparent game-tying touchdown. Instead, another review indicated that Peavy failed to complete the catch, and again six Badgers points came off the board.

After a sack, a confusing spike play and an incomplete pass by backup quarterback Bart Houston, Wisconsin failed to score on its final drive, and the ridiculous ending finished with a Northwestern win.

[MORE BIG TEN: Gophers run past Illini, who need win in finale to reach bowl]

The fans at Camp Randall were audibly upset with those calls, but it wasn't the first time. Earlier in the second half, Wisconsin's Alex Erickson appeared to return a punt for a go-ahead touchdown. But officials ruled Erickson called for a fair catch, even though his arm signal appeared to be to alert teammates to stay away from the ball. Regardless, the points came off the board.

Prior to all that second-half craziness, Northwestern cashed in on a Stave interception in the first quarter, turning it into a Justin Jackson touchdown rush that made it a 7-0 game.

The Badgers gave it right back on the next drive, on a Tanner McEvoy fumble, but Mitchell missed a field-goal try. Mitchell hit a field goal before the end of the half to send the Cats to the break with a 10-0 advantage.

Wisconsin scored on its first possession of the second half, needing to go just 64 yards and finishing the drive with a Corey Clement touchdown run.

Mitchell missed another field goal in the third quarter before hitting one off an Anthony Walker interception to make it a 13-7 game.

[SHOP BIG TEN: Get your Northwestern gear right here]

Defense dominated this one, with the teams just barely getting over 200 total yards apiece. Northwestern's pass rush was terrific at flustering Stave, sacking him six times, while the Cats' front completely shut down the Badgers' rushing attack, as Wisconsin finished with minus-26 rushing yards, a shocking stat for a program so often associated with rushing excellence.

Of course, the Cats managed just 60 passing yards, with Clayton Thorson completing only nine throws. Jackson, though, had a big day, rushing 35 times for 139 yards and a touchdown.

The win sent Northwestern to 9-2, and one of the more successful seasons in program history is still very much possible. A win in the regular-season finale next weekend against Illinois would give the Cats 10 wins in a single season for just the second time under Pat Fitzgerald and just the fourth time in program history. If Northwestern could pick up two more wins — over Illinois and in a bowl game — it would be the first 11-win season in program history.

Wisconsin dropped to 8-3 with the loss, and its season remains kind of a mystery. The Badgers have just three losses, all to teams currently ranked in the top 20 in the College Football Playoff rankings, but have no impressive wins. They wrap their regular season next weekend with the annual rivalry game against Minnesota.

 

Northwestern running back Jeremy Larkin diagnosed with cervical stenosis, will retire immediately

jeremy_larkin.jpg
USA TODAY

Northwestern running back Jeremy Larkin diagnosed with cervical stenosis, will retire immediately

Tough news out of Evanston this morning: Northwestern announced that running back Jeremy Larkin will retire immediately after being diagnosed with cervical stenosis.

Cervical stenois is the narrowing of the spinal canal in one's neck, according to Mayo Clinic. Larkin's condition is thankfully not life-threatening, though it does prevent him from continuing to participate in the game of football. 

"Football has been a lifelong passion and it has been a process to reconcile the fact I won't be on that field again, given I've played this game since I was five years old," Larkin said.

"I'm extremely appreciative of the Northwestern sports medicine and athletic training staffs for uncovering this condition, and for my coaches and the medical staff for always putting my health first.

"I came to this University to engage at the absolute highest level on the field and in the classroom, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to continue one of those while supporting my teammates from the sideline." 

Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald called the news "heartbreaking."

"This is heartbreaking because I see every day how much Jeremy loves the game, loves his teammates, and loves to compete," Fitzgerald said in a statement. "But this is the absolute best possible outcome for him.

"The discovery of this condition allowed Jeremy and his family to make an informed decision for his long-term health and well-being. For those of us who have known Jeremy Larkin since his high school days, his future is exceptionally bright. I can't wait to see the impact he makes in our world."

Larkin is a sophomore from Cincinnati. He finishes his Northwestern career with 156 carries for 849 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns.

Former Illini champion Kevin Anderson upsets Roger Federer in Wimbledon quarterfinal

anderson.jpg
USA TODAY

Former Illini champion Kevin Anderson upsets Roger Federer in Wimbledon quarterfinal

Former University of Illinois tennis star Kevin Anderson completed a marathon upset against an all-time great on the highest stage of professional tennis.

Anderson came back from two sets down to beat Roger Federer in Wimbledon’s quarterfinals 2-6, 6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 13-11 on Wednesday morning. He will play in the semifinals of the tournament for the first time in his career.

As a native of South Africa, Anderson played three seasons with the Fighting Illini and won the NCAA doubles championship during the 2005-06 season as a sophomore. The 32-year-old was a three-time All-American in singles at Illinois.

Now, as the eighth ranked singles player on the ATP World Tour, Anderson is a force to be reckoned with at the professional level. He made it all the way to the US Open final in 2017.

The former Illini star will look to keep his recent success going when he represents Illinois in the semifinals of Wimbledon this Friday.