Big Ten

Elliott, Buckeyes play like champs in Fiesta Bowl win over Notre Dame

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Elliott, Buckeyes play like champs in Fiesta Bowl win over Notre Dame

When Ohio State was voted the unanimous preseason No. 1 team in the country, it was because folks expected performances like the one the Buckeyes turned in Friday.

Obviously the season didn't go like many expected — the expectations were almost repeat as national champions or bust — but there the Buckeyes were on New Year's Day, putting a hurting on Notre Dame, a College Football Playoff caliber team, in a 44-28 Fiesta Bowl victory.

This season's big win on New Year's Day won't punch a ticket to the national championship game. But like last year's January efforts, the Buckeyes emerged looking like one of college football's best.

Ezekiel Elliott wrapped his collegiate career with a huge game, rushing for 149 yards and scoring four touchdowns. J.T. Barrett made it look like there never should have been a quarterback controversy, passing for 211 yards and a touchdown and rushing for an additional 96 yards. Ohio State finished with nearly 500 yards of total offense, including 285 on the ground.

Urban Meyer won his 50th game as Ohio State's head football coach and got the Gatorade bath. It didn't end with another national championship, but it was a still an ending to a season worth celebrating.

[MORE BIG TEN: Joey Bosa ejected for targeting in what is likely last game with Buckeyes]

Ohio State’s offense was explosive from the very start. The Buckeyes went 80 yards in nine plays, highlighted by a big 27-yard rush by Braxton Miller and capped by an Elliott scoring rush from three yards out.

The next drive saw the Buckeyes in the end zone in just four plays. Barrett completed a pass to Marcus Baugh for a 27-yard gain before hitting Michael Thomas for a 14-yard touchdown.

The game’s most controversial play came on the ensuing drive, as Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer threw an interception to Tyvis Powell. But the interception was negated when star defensive end Joey Bosa was flagged for targeting and ejected from the game, the final play of his Ohio State career, as he’s expected to declare for the NFL Draft.

Things slowed from there as the mood was obviously altered by Bosa’s ejection, and Notre Dame halved the Ohio State lead on a second-quarter touchdown rush by Josh Adams. Barrett and Elliott teamed for an answer, though, Barrett marching the Buckeyes into Irish territory before a 16-yard rush by Elliott, a nine-yard rush by Barrett and a 14-yard rush by Elliott, which set Ohio State up at the Notre Dame one-yard line. Elliott punched it in on the next play for his second touchdown run to give the Buckeyes a 21-7 lead.

After the Ohio State defense forced another three and out, a Barrett pass to Elliott went for 30 yards downfield, followed by a 15-yard Jalin Marshall rush to the three-yard line. Elliott again punched it in from a yard out for touchdown No. 3 to make it a 28-7 game.

Notre Dame responded with a nine-play, 75-yard drive that ended in a Kizer touchdown run to make it 28-14 right before halftime.

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

Ohio State’s first drive of the third quarter ended in a Barrett interception, and Kizer turned it into a touchdown pass to Chris Brown to bring the Irish within a score at 28-21. But Elliott punched right back, going 47 yards just a few plays later to extend the Buckeyes’ lead to 35-21 with his fourth scoring run of the game.

Sean Nuernberger kicked a trio of fourth-quarter field goals, making sure that even an electrifying 81-yard touchdown catch and run by Notre Dame's Will Fuller didn't get the Irish any closer than 10.

It was a stellar day for Elliott, who has made it known that he'll declare for the NFL Draft. The same is known of Bosa, though he didn't get a similar ending, walking off the field for the final time as a student-athlete after not even a full quarter of play and making just three tackles.

The Buckeyes finished the season at 12-1, their only loss coming against Big Ten champion Michigan State, which was pounded Thursday night in the College Football Playoff semifinal against Alabama. Meyer is now 50-4 in four seasons as the head man in Columbus.

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.