Big Ten

The guy who saved the day for Spartans ended up in the hospital

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The guy who saved the day for Spartans ended up in the hospital

Jalen Watts-Jackson scooped up Michigan’s fumbled punt and scored a game-winning touchdown as time expired Saturday, delivering one of the most improbable endings to a football game you’ll ever see.

And then he went to the hospital.

Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio told reporters after the 27-23 win that Watts-Jackson injured his hip and had to be taken to the hospital.

“Jalen Watts-Jackson, great job scooping it up. I think he either dislocated his hip or has a broken hip. He’s at the hospital right now,” Dantonio said. “So on that particular play, as he went in the end zone, that’s what happened, or before it, I’m not sure what. By the time I got there, he was down.”

Just even more unbelievable aftermath to an unbelievable play.

For those who didn’t see it, Michigan punter Blake O’Neill lined up to punt with 10 seconds remaining and the Wolverines ahead by two. The game looked over. But O’Neill couldn’t handle the snap and dropped the ball. Watts-Jackson — part of Michigan State’s 11-man punt-blocking unit — picked it up and ran it back 38 yards for a shocking touchdown that gave the Spartans their first and only lead of the game with no time left on the clock.

(Video from BTN.com)

“I don’t know what to say about that,” Dantonio said. “You go from 10 seconds and the guy punting the ball, thinking, ‘OK, this is done.’ All of a sudden, life gets flipped upside down.”

As the head coach reminded reporters, this isn’t the first crazy ending to a Michigan State win.

You might remember what the coach dubbed “the Little Giants play,” a fake field goal for a game-winning touchdown in overtime against Notre Dame in 2010. And there’s the Hail Mary touchdown catch Keith Nichol hauled in off a tip to beat Wisconsin in 2011.

Well, add this one to the list.

“We’ve had a lot of finishes like this,” Dantonio said. “We’ve got a belief system. Doesn’t mean it always happens. … There’s been some tight ones, but we just find a way. It’s the culture that we have on our football team, and our guys just continue to play and we believe in each other. And if we lost, we lost, but I knew that we played as hard as we could and we left it on the field. And that’s the most important thing to me.”

After seven weeks, the Spartans are undefeated, despite escaping with nail-biting victories over Purdue, Rutgers and Michigan in three straight weeks. But winning’s the most important thing, and if Michigan State is undefeated come season’s end, it won’t matter how it got those wins, just that it got them.

“I don’t know, it’s crazy,” Dantonio said. “It was crazy.”

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.