Big Ten

Gophers run past Illini, who need win in finale to reach bowl

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Gophers run past Illini, who need win in finale to reach bowl

For the second straight season, Illinois will be playing for its postseason future in its regular-season finale.

The Illini couldn't stop Minnesota's rushing attack and couldn't come up with touchdowns when they needed to, falling to the Gophers, 32-23, on Saturday afternoon in the Twin Cities.

Wes Lunt played very well in the first half and got the Illini on the board first, capping a 77-yard touchdown drive with a touchdown toss to Malik Turner. But the Gophers responded immediately, Mitch Leidner gaining 33 yards on one rush en route to a Shannon Brook game-tying touchdown run.

After Illinois kicked a field goal, Brooks turned in a game-breaking 38-yard touchdown run. He later fumbled in the second quarter, which the Illini turned into another field goal. But Minnesota reached the goal line with seconds before halftime, and Leidner hit Rashad Still with a touchdown pass to take a 21-13 lead into the break.

The Illini settled for a field goal once more in the third quarter, but the Gophers were offsides on the play, keeping the drive going. A few plays later, Lunt pitched a touchdown toss to Andrew Davis to make it a one-point game. Minnesota then got a huge kick return but settled for a field goal of its own. A quarter later, the Illini were forced into another field goal, and Brooks' 75-yard touchdown run sealed the game when Leidner ran in for a successful two-point conversion.

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Illinois lost despite out-gaining Minnesota, 433-343. The Gophers gained 255 rushing yards, with Brooks rushing for 174 yards and three touchdowns.

Lunt had a good day for the Illini, finishing with 279 passing yards and two touchdowns, plus an interception. Josh Ferguson went over 100 yards on the ground, gaining 105 yards on 20 carries. Turner had a huge day, catching 11 passes for 126 yards and a touchdown.

The Illini dropped to 5-6 with the loss, and their only hope at reaching a bowl game — and perhaps of keeping Bill Cubit as the permanent head coach — rides on the regular-season finale against Northwestern next weekend at Soldier Field.

The Gophers improved to 5-6 with the win and could reach the postseason with an upset win over Wisconsin next weekend.

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.