Big Ten

Clayton Thorson has big game as Northwestern gets first win

Clayton Thorson has big game as Northwestern gets first win

The first two weeks were ugly ones for Northwestern. A struggling offense couldn't do much in two gut-wrenching losses to Western Michigan and Illinois State.

So, naturally, when a team from a Power Five conference came to Evanston on Saturday, the Wildcats stepped up.

Clayton Thorson had a career day, throwing for 320 yards and three touchdowns as Northwestern picked up its first win of the season, a 24-13 victory over Duke.

Despite a 10-play, 75-yard touchdown drive by the Cats on their game-opening drive, this one was routinely low-scoring through the first half. Thorson pitched a 26-yard touchdown pass to Garrett Dickerson to cap that drive, but that was it as far as points for the remainder of the two opening quarters. Duke followed up with a second-quarter touchdown, and the squads were knotted at 7 at the half.

But Northwestern scored the game's next 17 points, Thorson tossing a couple of big touchdown passes, one for 44 yards to Solomon Vault and a second to Austin Carr for 58 yards. Throw a Jack Mitchell field goal in there, and Duke's lone second-half score — a one-yard touchdown run in the game's final minute — was nowhere near enough.

The Cats ended the game with 406 yards of offense, Thorson starring with his 320 yards and three touchdowns, though he did also throw a pair of interceptions. Justin Jackson, whose day ended early in last weekend's loss, got back on track a bit with 94 yards on 28 carries. Carr had a massive night, catching six passes for 135 yards and a touchdown.

The Northwestern defense let up nearly 400 yards but did a fine job of keeping Duke out of the end zone. The Cats forced a pair of turnovers and allowed 5.7 yards per pass compared to Thorson averaging 8.2 yards per pass against the Blue Devil defense.

The win sent the Cats to 1-2 on the season, certainly not where the team though it would be after three home games against non-conference opponents. But any win following those two ghastly season-opening defeats is a welcome one.

Northwestern opens Big Ten play next weekend against Nebraska.

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.