Big Ten

Nebraska carves up Illini as Lovie Smith's young team suffers second straight blowout loss


Nebraska carves up Illini as Lovie Smith's young team suffers second straight blowout loss

Two weeks ago, Nebraska lost in spectacularly ugly fashion to Northern Illinois. But against another Land of Lincoln team Friday night, things weren't nearly as bad.

Nebraska's offense, which hasn't had the easiest go of things through the first four weeks of this season, carved up the Illinois defense, sending Lovie Smith's young team to its second straight blowout loss, a 28-6 final down in Champaign in the Big Ten's first-ever conference game played on a Friday night.

Tanner Lee, who threw two pick sixes in that loss to Northern Illinois, looked like a totally different quarterback against the Illini defense, completing 17 of his 24 passes for 246 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions, a vast departure from the seven touchdowns and nine interceptions he entered Friday's game with. The Huskers scored on all three of their possessions in the first half and added another touchdown in the fourth quarter. Nebraska finished with 411 total yards of offense against Illinois' struggling defense, which has allowed 75 points and 1,091 yards combined in back-to-back losses to South Florida and Nebraska.

Meanwhile, though Illinois quarterback Chayce Crouch had some early success running the ball, the Illini struggled almost as bad on the offensive side, failing to reach the end zone. Illinois had two drives that reached inside the Nebraska 10-yard line but settled for field goals on both. Even after the Illini defense forced a Huskers fumble to give their offense the ball inside the 35-yard line, the Illini offense was pushed backward thanks to a pair of sacks of Crouch and had to punt, an unfortunately accurate snapshot of the team's offensive performance Friday night.

Shockingly, Illinois' best offensive player, wide receiver Mike Dudek, was barely targeted had just two catches for 37 yards. He was, however, the team's leading receiver Friday.

The Illini entered Friday's game last in the Big Ten in scoring offense. That ranking is unlikely to improve after Friday's meager six-point output that dropped their scoring average to 18.3 points per game.

So after winning its first two games against Ball State and Western Kentucky, Illinois has dropped two straight games to South Florida and Nebraska to even its record at 2-2.

Games like these show just how far Smith has to take the Illini before they're a more respectable program in a conference full of football giants. The program's youth remained on full display Friday, with young players making the mistakes that young players make and the team as a whole going through growing pains.

It's obviously not what fans want to see, hoping for instant gratification. But look at the makeup of Smith's roster: 54 freshmen and 22 sophomores compared to 16 juniors and nine seniors. That's amazing.

Until those guys grow up, these kind of results figure to remain common in Champaign.

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.