Big Ten

Big Ten preview: Penn State's Christian Hackenberg looks to bounce back from up-and-down 2014


Big Ten preview: Penn State's Christian Hackenberg looks to bounce back from up-and-down 2014

It seems at times like the only thing people want to talk about when it comes to Christian Hackenberg is his NFL future.

Hackenberg thinks that, anyway.

“I respect that all of you have a job to do,” Hackenberg told reporters earlier this month during the team’s media day, “but I also have a job to do and it is to lead this Penn State football team. That being said, I would ask for you to respect the job I have to do and please refrain from asking me about questions regarding my future beyond the 2015 season. I am strictly focused on making this Penn State football team the best that it can be. … I am looking forward to a great year.”

With all the talk about Hackenberg’s NFL Draft stock and his standing as the type of quarterback pro scouts drool over, it’s hard to remember that he’s still playing quarterback at Penn State.

[MORE BIG TEN: Big Ten preview: Who will win Northwestern's quarterback job?]

After an impressive freshman season in 2013, last year was a struggle at times for Hackenberg. Some of his numbers still remained strong. His 2,977 passing yards were the second most in the Big Ten. Some didn’t. He led Big Ten quarterbacks with 15 interceptions, and he only had 12 touchdown passes. He had phenomenal games, like the 454-yard day against Central Florida and the 371-yards, four-touchdown performance in the bowl win over Boston College. And he had miserable games, like the combined 24-for-55, 280 yards, zero touchdowns and four interceptions in back-to-back games against Indiana and Temple.

That up-and-down style defined Hackenberg’s second season of college football and made him look like anything but a future No. 1 pick. But he’s taking them as learning experiences.

“At the end of the day, you learn to love those experiences — the goods, the bads — and you get better from it, or you build off of it,” Hackenberg said. “Last season as a whole, I don't really try to segment it. I just take everything I can from it and what I can learn from it and help this football team win as many games as it can.

“That there were a lot of ups and downs, you were going to face adversity at times, but you have to continue to make sure you play through it and stay true to who you are.”

[MORE BIG TEN: Big Ten preview: Justin Jackson looks to be even better in 2015]

Hackenberg’s rough 2014 wasn’t all his fault, of course. Penn State’s offensive line was unsuccessful, to say the least, at stopping rushing defenders and creating holes for the Nittany Lions practically non-existent running game. The rushing attack barely averaged 100 yards a game. Hackenberg was constantly under pressure, sacked 44 times on the season.

Hackenberg didn’t blame his offensive line, instead talking about the things he needed to do to make their jobs easier, and maybe that was also at least part of last year’s issues. But the offensive line should be better in 2015. In addition to returning four more experienced starters, Penn State welcomed in a pair of transfers: junior-college transfer Paris Palmer and graduate transfer Kevin Reihner, who was at Stanford last season. That added experience ought to help Hackenberg out.

But in the end, the focus will be on Hackenberg, and regardless of how his offensive line and wideouts and running backs play, he’ll be the one whose numbers are analyzed to death. Given the way NFL Draft analysts typically think, the actual amount of success Hackenberg has in 2015 might not mean as much as his “projectability.”

Thankfully, Hackenberg is focused on Penn State. It would make sense that with improvements around him, his 2015 season should more closely resemble 2013 than 2014. A terrific season might mean Hackenberg will be off to the NFL before his eligibility is exhausted. But that would also mean a pretty good year for Penn State.

Former Illini champion Kevin Anderson upsets Roger Federer in Wimbledon quarterfinal


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.

Northwestern set to play Wisconsin at Wrigley Field in 2020

Northwestern set to play Wisconsin at Wrigley Field in 2020

Weeks will separate a perfect 10-year anniversary where Northwestern will play at Wrigley Field for one of its regular season games in the upcoming years.

Back on Nov. 20, 2010, the Wildcats battled it out with Illinois, known as the “Wrigleyville Classic,” which saw the Illini take a 48-27 win.

Even though it’s still two years out, Northwestern still planned ahead and announced its opponent for its game at Wrigley Field on Nov. 7, 2020, against Big Ten rival Wisconsin.

“Obviously an exciting opportunity for our football program to come back to Wrigley Field, one of the Cathedrals of sporting venues in the world,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “When I announced it to our team, they were absolutely ecstatic.”

“The opportunity to play at Wrigley field is unique to us, being Chicago’s Big Ten team, and to have the chance to come down and play in an atmosphere like we did a few years back was a bowl game type atmosphere, and I look forward to this special opportunity.”

This game though will be a little different than it was back in 2010. Both the Wildcats and Illini played toward the west end zone due to a tight squeeze near the right field wall due to box seats that were added down the third base line.

Now, Northwestern and Wisconsin do not have to worry about that problem because the bullpens have since moved to the outfield.

Cubs president of business operations Crane Kenney spoke at a news conference earlier on Tuesday at Wrigley.

“So excited to welcome back Northwestern to Wrigley Field to talk about football again,” Kenney said. “We had an incredible experience with them back in 2010."

Kenney also mentioned new seating is on a temporary platform that can all be removed and the dugout tops can be removed as well, and the field will expand west, to allow for a longer field.

With a sellout crowd in the last go around for the Wildcats, don’t be surprised for another sellout at the Friendly Confines.