Big Ten

With Josh Ferguson back, Illini run wild in rout of Purdue


With Josh Ferguson back, Illini run wild in rout of Purdue

Even if Purdue’s defense had more to do with a monster rushing day and a monster day in general for the Illinois offense, boy are the Illini glad to have Josh Ferguson back.

The senior running back sat out the last three games with a shoulder injury before returning to action Saturday and having a big performance in Illinois’ 48-14 rout of Purdue in West Lafayette.

The Illini amassed 382 rushing yards in a ridiculous ground effort, getting 134 yards from Ferguson and 180 yards from Ke’Shawn Vaughn, part of a nearly 600-yard day by the orange and blue offense.

The output was shocking following three straight games where the rushing attack and offense in general was virtually non-existent. In three consecutive losses to Iowa, Wisconsin and Penn State — three of the best defenses in the country, mind you — Illinois accumulated a total of 138 rushing yards. The Illini weren’t far from tripling that number Saturday.

And the defense did its part in a complete domination of the Boilermakers, limiting an offense that scored 55 points last weekend against Nebraska to just 263 yards and a pair of inconsequential touchdowns.

[MORE BIG TEN: Northwestern comes back to beat Penn State after blowing early lead]

The Illini got on the board early with a 32-yard touchdown pass from Wes Lunt to Malik Turner, and after a pair of field goals from Taylor Zalewski, Ferguson took a screen pass from Lunt 12 yards for the team’s second touchdown, giving Illinois a 20-0 lead.

Purdue got a second-quarter touchdown in the first half’s finale minute, but that was answered before the clock ran out, with Lunt finding Desmond Cain for a 20-yard score with 14 seconds till the break.

Vaughn went for two touchdowns in the third quarter on scoring runs of six and 78 yards, and after a fourth-quarter touchdown for Purdue, Illinois wrapped the day’s scoring with a Kendrick Foster touchdown run.

Ferguson ended the day with 12 carries for 134 yards and six catches for 41 yards and a touchdown in his return to the field, something that obviously sparked the Illini offensively. Vaughn’s 180 yards and two touchdowns came on 16 carries.

Lunt completed 19 of his 33 passing attempts for 169 yards and a trio of touchdowns. Cain was the game’s leading receiver with six catches for 74 yards and a touchdown.

[SHOP BIG TEN: Get your Fighting Illini gear right here]

It was a tough follow up to last week’s win for Purdue. David Blough, who threw four touchdown passes in the win over the Huskers, threw just one Saturday compared to a pair of interceptions. And the Boilermakers were completely ineffective on the ground, gaining just 89 rushing yards. 

The Illini moved to 5-4 with the victory and are just one win away from reaching a bowl game for the second straight season and improbably doing so in a season where former head coach Tim Beckman was fired a week before the schedule began. Bill Cubit has done a nice job as the interim head coach and will look for that postseason-clinching win with games against Ohio State, Minnesota and Northwestern remaining.

Purdue, just days after it was reported that Darrell Hazell will be back as head coach next season, looked as bad as it has in three ugly seasons under Hazell. The Boilers dropped to 2-7 on the year and have back-to-back road games at ranked Northwestern and Iowa teams before the season-closing matchup with Indiana.

Northwestern running back Jeremy Larkin diagnosed with cervical stenosis, will retire immediately


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


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.