Big Ten

Jihad Ward listed as probable for Illini season-opener

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Jihad Ward listed as probable for Illini season-opener

Jihad Ward was listed as probable when the Illini released their injury report for Friday night's season-opening game against Kent State.

Ward, a senior defensive end and one of the Illini's best defensive players, was expected to miss the first two games of the season, as reported by former head coach Tim Beckman midway through the month of August.

Ward's injury, reported to be a knee injury, required minor surgery, and Beckman said he'd miss the opener vs. Kent State and the Week 2 game against Western Illinois. But the injury is apparently healing faster than initially expected, and it looks like Ward will play Friday night.

The senior defensive end is coming off a strong 2014 campaign in which he recorded 51 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, two forced fumble and four fumble recoveries.

[MORE BIG TEN: Bill Cubit hoping to inspire a much-needed rally for Illini]

Additionally, wide receivers Mike Dudek and Justin Hardee as well as linebacker Mike Svetina were ruled out for Friday's game. Interestingly, Dudek, who tore his ACL during spring practice, has not been designated as out for the season, which does apply to defensive back Patrick Nelson, defensive lineman Teko Powell and running backs Reggie Corbin and Dre Brown.

Illinois opens the 2015 campaign — with interim head coach Bill Cubit at the helm — at 8 p.m. Friday night in Champaign.

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.