Big Ten

Illini respond to tough week with absolute rout of Kent State

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Illini respond to tough week with absolute rout of Kent State

It's been a tough week or so for the Illinois football program.

Tim Beckman was fired as head coach a week away from the season-opener, which was then postponed after a multi-hour delay due to severe weather Friday night in Champaign.

But once the Illini, behind interim head coach Bill Cubit, were able to finally take the field Saturday afternoon, they steamrolled Kent State by a score of 52-3.

Everything was going right for Illinois from the get-go, with the Illini scoring four touchdowns in the first quarter. Those four drives took a combined three minutes and 23 seconds as the Illini were rewarded with incredible field position over and over again. V'Angelo Bentley started things with a big punt return. Eaton Spence intercepted a pass on the next defensive possession. The Illini recovered a muffed punt the next time around. And Mason Monheim had an interception after that.

The Illini offense thanked its defense for the incredible field position with three Wes Lunt touchdown passes — to Tyler White, Marchie Murdock and Josh Ferguson — and a touchdown run from Ferguson. The game was effectively over at that point, though the Illini weren't done scoring. Another Lunt touchdown pass to Geronimo Allison and a field goal came in the second quarter. True freshman running back Ke'Shawn Vaughn ran in a score in the third quarter. And backup quarterback Chayce Crouch hooked up with Sam Mays for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.

[MORE BIG TEN: Behind stellar defense, Northwestern chops down Stanford in upset]

Only a fourth-quarter field goal kept Kent State from getting shut out.

Lunt finished with just 162 passing yards to go along with his four touchdown passes. Credit the short fields the Illini defense kept providing for that. That's also the reason for the somewhat surprising 342-yard total for the Illini, who had just 134 yards on the ground. The Illinois defense played terrifically, limiting Kent State to 245 yards total, just 59 rushing.

Perhaps more than statistically, though, it was a terrific win for the Illini emotionally. The team lost its head coach to firing just a week ago, and the weather postponement meant very few fans in the stands Saturday afternoon. But the Illini were more than ready to play under Cubit, giving the interim head coach his first win of the season.

And here's how they celebrated:

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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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.