Big Ten

Badgers pick off Jeff George Jr. four times en route to rout of Illini

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Badgers pick off Jeff George Jr. four times en route to rout of Illini

MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin's defense is very good. Illinois' offense is not very good. So something like this didn't come as too big a surprise.

Jeff George Jr. threw four first-half interceptions as the Illini were blitzed by the seventh-ranked Badgers by a 48-3 score on Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium.

Illinois couldn't muster much of anything offensively Saturday, and certainly George's avalanche of interceptions over the game's opening 30 minutes didn't help. Wisconsin scored a total of 17 points off those picks, Leo Musso coming away with a pair of them including one that first bounced off the hands and foot of fellow defensive back Sojourn Shelton.

The vast differences between the two teams would've been very apparent even without George's giveaways. The Badgers totaled 455 yards, with 363 coming on the ground, a season high. Corey Clement scored the team's first two touchdowns, with Alex Hornibrook throwing to Jazz Peavy and Bart Houston throwing to Kyle Penniston for the other two end-zone trips in the first half. The Badgers got a field goal, too, right before halftime.

At the break, Wisconsin held an already-insurmountable 31-3 advantage, out-rushing Illinois by more than 100 yards.

After halftime, Wes Lunt replaced George at quarterback. It was the senior's first action since being knocked out of the Illini's loss to Purdue with a back injury. He's been dressed the past few weeks, but Lovie Smith never put him in the game until Saturday. After George went 5-for-16 for 79 yards and the four interceptions in the first two quarters, Lunt was 2-for-8 for 22 yards.

The Badgers tacked on a field goal in the third quarter. And in the fourth, Clement rushed in for his third touchdown of the game before Bradrick Shaw got a scoring rush to make it 48-3.

Illinois ended the day with 200 total yards, 101 passing and 99 rushing.

Clement and Dare Ogunbowale had huge days rushing the ball for the Badgers, gaining 123 and 103 yards, respectively. Shaw rushed for 76 yards. Hornibrook and Houston combined to throw for 92 yards.

The win sent Wisconsin one step closer to a Big Ten West Division championship and a spot in the conference title game. The Badgers — 8-2 overall, 5-2 in conference play and No. 7 in the latest College Football Playoff rankings — have regular-season games remaining against Purdue and Minnesota. Should the rival Gophers win their next two games, the annual battle for Paul Bunyan's Axe in the regular-season finale will serve as a play-in game for the Big Ten Championship Game. If the Badgers win out, they'll head to Indianapolis.

The loss dropped the Illini to 3-7 on the season and 2-5 in conference play. A seventh loss technically prevents Illinois from reaching bowl eligibility, though multiple 5-7 teams made postseason appearances last year. The Illini finish their regular-season schedule with games against Iowa and Northwestern.

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

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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

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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.