Big Ten

Good news for Illini: Josh Ferguson listed as 'probable'

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Good news for Illini: Josh Ferguson listed as 'probable'

It looks like Josh Ferguson will finally be back in the lineup for the Illini on Saturday against Purdue.

And that, for Illinois, is phenomenal news.

Thursday night’s injury report listed Ferguson as probable, a good sign that he’ll return for the first time since injuring his shoulder early on in Illinois’ win over Nebraska back on Oct. 3. He’s missed the entirety of three straight games — all Illini losses — and it’s been about as major a blow as you’d imagine a Big Ten team losing its senior running back would be.

In the first five games of the season, the Illini averaged 155.8 rushing yards per game. But in Ferguson’s three-game absence, the Illini have totaled 138 yards. That’s it: 46 yards against Iowa, 55 yards against Wisconsin and 37 yards against Penn State.

Illinois has the Big Ten’s worst rushing offense, averaging just 114.6 yards on the ground per game.

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Now, there’s plenty of reason to believe that even with Ferguson those yardage totals would’ve been quite low. Iowa, Wisconsin and Penn State boast three of the best defenses in the country, and when it comes to stopping the run, the Hawkeyes and Badgers are the fifth- and seventh-best teams in the FBS, respectively. The Nittany Lions aren’t too shabby, ranking 42nd.

But Ferguson’s absence certainly had a lot to do with things. Without the senior, the Illini had to rely heavily on freshman Ke’Shawn Vaughn. Vaughn performed well after Ferguson was injured in the Nebraska game, carrying the ball 24 times for 98 yards in that win. In the last three games, he accumulated a total of 160 yards, getting 19, 13 and 15 carries, respectively, in those contests.

The stars could align for a big rushing day this weekend. Not only is Ferguson back in the fold, but Purdue is the league’s worst team when it comes to stopping the run. The Boilermakers are allowing an average of 183 yards on the ground per game.

In three prior games against Purdue in his career, Ferguson has 218 yards on 45 carries and 114 receiving yards on 17 catches.

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.