Big Ten

Braxton Miller, Buckeyes spin by Virginia Tech in season-opener

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Braxton Miller, Buckeyes spin by Virginia Tech in season-opener

Trailing at the half, there was plenty of reason to be worried about the defending national champions in Monday night’s season-opener against Virginia Tech.

But the Buckeyes have too many weapons, too many explosive players who make too many explosive plays. And in a game where Ohio State didn’t appear at its best, it still turned in an impressive 42-24 win.

Cardale Jones — revealed in the first quarter as the winner of Ohio State’s preseason quarterback competition — and Ezekiel Elliott picked up where they left off during the Buckeyes’ run to the national championship. Jones tossed a 24-yard touchdown pass to Curtis Samuel on the team’s first drive, and Elliott streaked 80 yards for a touchdown on his first carry of the game.

But Virginia Tech punched back with a dominant second quarter where it capitalized on Ohio State mistakes. The Buckeyes committed a few critical penalties, Jones threw an interception and Elliott muffed a punt, turning the ball over to the Hokies. Virginia Tech scored a pair of touchdowns with passes to wide-open receivers — including a 51-yard catch and run by the full back. That allowed Virginia Tech to head to the locker room with an improbable 17-14 lead.

[MORE BIG TEN: Stuff to clean up, but Clayton Thorson leads Cats to 'W' in first start]

But Braxton Miller, the former Heisman-candidate quarterback who switched to wide receiver this offseason, starred in the third quarter, helping put to bed any ideas of an upset of the first-ever unanimous preseason No. 1 team. Miller made a stellar catch and run on a Jones pass, resulting in a 54-yard touchdown. Then Miller dropped America’s collective jaw with a highlight-reel spin move for the ages during a 53-yard touchdown run.

Ohio State poured it on with a Jones touchdown run and a 26-yard touchdown pass from J.T. Barrett to Michael Thomas in the fourth quarter.

Even with Joey Bosa suspended, the Buckeyes defense made some big plays, forcing a pair of turnovers. Virginia Tech rushed for just 128 yards.

[MORE BIG TEN: Same as it ever was: Hoosiers O great, D bad vs. Southern Illinois]

Jones was arguably a surprise as the winner of that quarterback competition, beating out Barrett, who led the Buckeyes in terrific fashion through the entirety of the regular season last year. But it was Jones who led those three postseason wins en route to a national championship. Monday night, Jones finished with 186 passing yards and a pair of touchdown passes as well as 99 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown.

Barrett got into the game in the fourth quarter, throwing just one pass, the touchdown throw to Thomas, and carrying the ball one time for 40 yards.

Elliott finished with 122 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. Ohio State rushed for a whopping 360 yards and out-gained Virginia Tech, 572-320.

The Buckeyes might have had people concerned in the first half, but they outscored the Hokies, 28-7, in the second half. And the big plays by the unending onslaught of high-caliber players showed that there’s no reason to think that Ohio State won’t be favored to repeat as national champion from now until November, when the next big test comes in a game against fellow current top-five team Michigan State.

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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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.