Big Ten

No answers on when Corey Clement, Michael Caputo will return for Badgers

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No answers on when Corey Clement, Michael Caputo will return for Badgers

There were plenty of reasons Wisconsin was thumped by Alabama in a season-opening loss. Playing the now-No. 2 team in the country had an awful lot to do with it.

But injuries to two of the Badgers’ best players loomed large, and going forward, concerns over the health of running back Corey Clement and safety Michael Caputo still linger, creating mysteries for when they’ll get back on the field.

Clement was bothered by a nagging groin injury that head coach Paul Chryst reported Saturday had originated before the season-opener. Clement tried to give it a go, but he didn’t have much success, rushing just eight times for 16 yards.

Speaking during Tuesday’s Big Ten coaches teleconference, Chryst didn’t have an answer for whether Clement would be able to play Saturday against Miami (Ohio).

“I think we’ll find out more, certainly,” Chryst said. “I think specifically with Corey, we’ll see how this week goes and see where he’s at. If he’s healthy and ready to go — he’s put a lot of work in, and Corey’s not different than any other player, probably, in the country. In those situations, they want to play the game. So we’ll gather the information and kind of make that decision as the week goes on.”

[MORE BIG TEN: Big Ten Power Rankings: Buckeyes, Northwestern open with a bang]

Clement, who didn’t practice with the Badgers on Tuesday, seemed to have a different perspective, telling reporters he’ll play and that the decision is his to make.

Clement’s improved health — as well as a date with a far less difficult opponent — can only aid the Wisconsin rushing game, which was uncharacteristically non-existent in the Week 1 loss. The Badgers rushed for just 40 yards as a team against the Crimson Tide, a sorry total for a program so perennially dominant on the ground. That can be chalked up, in part, to an inexperienced offensive line, which due to preseason injuries didn't have much time to jell leading up to the season-opener.

“On the run game, you go back and look at it, and all 11 guys, there’s areas where we can get better,” Chryst said. “There’s some very specific technical things, whether it’s your first step, second step, third step, it’s your pad level, the track of the running back, it’s being on the edge of a guy you’re supposed to block as opposed to having the proper fit on him. There’s nothing magical about it, but certainly we all have to own the responsibility of being better than what we were.”

[MORE BIG TEN: Buckeyes stay atop latest AP poll, Badgers drop out]

But the other injury-related issue for the Badgers is the concussion suffered by safety Michael Caputo in the loss to Alabama. Caputo is one of the Badgers’ captains and one of the team’s best players on defense. The Wisconsin D was scorched by Alabama, yielding 502 total yards and 35 points, this after being one of the better defensive teams in the country last season. The Tide’s rushing attack was particularly lethal, racking up 238 yards and four rushing touchdowns, three of those scores on runs of 37, 56 and 43 yards. Surely Caputo's absence made a difference.

Chryst also had little in the way of an answer for whether Caputo would be back on the field in Week 2 — saying Caputo's going through concussion protocols — but he praised the senior, who could be seen on the Wisconsin sideline drawing up plays on a whiteboard after coming out of the game in the first quarter.

“It was interesting, and it just shows you, you talk about a guy that truly cares about this team and the players on the team,” Chryst said during his Monday press conference. “And it didn't matter what — I noticed him during special teams, I noticed him on offensive series, I noticed him on defense. He had the grease board out. I mean, he will do anything for this team. ... I mean, if there's a football game, Mike Caputo wants to be in it. It could be down at (the park), it could be anywhere. He wants to be a part of that game, and then his teammates you put in — that's when you feel bad. These guys only have so many opportunities and they want to be able to take advantage of them. That's what was hard for me to see more than anything. But he has got a lot of character and depth to him. It's pretty cool.”

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.