Big Ten

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

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USA TODAY

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.

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.

Northwestern set to play Wisconsin at Wrigley Field in 2020

Northwestern set to play Wisconsin at Wrigley Field in 2020

Weeks will separate a perfect 10-year anniversary where Northwestern will play at Wrigley Field for one of its regular season games in the upcoming years.

Back on Nov. 20, 2010, the Wildcats battled it out with Illinois, known as the “Wrigleyville Classic,” which saw the Illini take a 48-27 win.

Even though it’s still two years out, Northwestern still planned ahead and announced its opponent for its game at Wrigley Field on Nov. 7, 2020, against Big Ten rival Wisconsin.

“Obviously an exciting opportunity for our football program to come back to Wrigley Field, one of the Cathedrals of sporting venues in the world,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “When I announced it to our team, they were absolutely ecstatic.”

“The opportunity to play at Wrigley field is unique to us, being Chicago’s Big Ten team, and to have the chance to come down and play in an atmosphere like we did a few years back was a bowl game type atmosphere, and I look forward to this special opportunity.”

This game though will be a little different than it was back in 2010. Both the Wildcats and Illini played toward the west end zone due to a tight squeeze near the right field wall due to box seats that were added down the third base line.

Now, Northwestern and Wisconsin do not have to worry about that problem because the bullpens have since moved to the outfield.

Cubs president of business operations Crane Kenney spoke at a news conference earlier on Tuesday at Wrigley.

“So excited to welcome back Northwestern to Wrigley Field to talk about football again,” Kenney said. “We had an incredible experience with them back in 2010."

Kenney also mentioned new seating is on a temporary platform that can all be removed and the dugout tops can be removed as well, and the field will expand west, to allow for a longer field.

With a sellout crowd in the last go around for the Wildcats, don’t be surprised for another sellout at the Friendly Confines.