Big Ten

Northwestern earns bowl eligibility with three-touchdown win over Illini

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USA TODAY

Northwestern earns bowl eligibility with three-touchdown win over Illini

Northwestern's going bowling for a second straight year.

There was no repeat of 2014 for the Wildcats on Saturday, Northwestern taking it to rival Illinois in a 42-21 win that secured a sixth win and with it bowl eligibility for Pat Fitzgerald's team.

Running backs Justin Jackson and John Moten IV combined to score five rushing touchdowns, a few in big-play fashion, en route to a 278-yard performance by the Northwestern rushing attack. The Illini turned the ball over four times in this one, including three fumbles, with all four leading directly to touchdowns for the Cats.

Moten had a pair of first-quarter touchdown rushes, the first form nine yards out and the second a huge 43-yard scoring scamper that showed Northwestern's dominance in this one early.

The Cats turned the ball over on downs later in the first half when Clayton Thorson was sacked on fourth down around the Illini 40-yard line, but Illinois receiver Malik Turner fumbled two plays later, giving the ball right back to Northwestern. A big 27-yard Jackson rush followed, and two plays after that, Jackson was into the end zone to make it 21-0.

Illinois struck back with a Wes Lunt touchdown pass on its next drive, and the game was at 21-14 at halftime after Reggie Corbin's eight-yard touchdown run right before the break.

But the Illini's turnover woes kept cropping back up in the second half. A third-quarter fumble by Corbin inside the Northwestern 10-yard line gave the Cats the ball, and they turned it into an 84-yard touchdown drive capped with Jackson's monstrous 54-yard touchdown run.

The Illini followed by missing a field goal but caught a break when Thorson was sacked and fumbled, turning the ball over and giving Illinois a short field and a 24-yard touchdown drive that ended in a Lunt scoring toss to Turner to make the score 28-21.

But after forcing the Cats to punt, the Illini turned the ball over once more, Darius Mosley coughing up the punt return and giving Northwestern the ball around midfield. A 35-yard Jackson run kicktarted the drive, and Thorson finished it off with a touchdown pass to Garrett Dickerson to make it a two-score game.

And one final time, in the fourth quarter, the Illini had a back-breaking turnover, Lunt pitching an interception to Montre Hartage that was taken back 66 yards to the five-yard line, setting up an easy Jackson touchdown rush.

In the end, Illinois out-gained Northwestern by 35 yards and had more first downs, Lunt having a strong statistical outing with 377 passing yards. But the turnovers buried the Illini and boosted the Cats.

Jackson finished with 173 rushing yards and a trio of touchdowns on 21 carries. Moten had 128 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries. Thorson threw for 121 yards and a touchdown.

Lunt was great for the Illini, throwing for 377 yards and two touchdowns. Corbin rushed for 70 yards and a touchdown. Turner had 11 catches for 164 yards and two touchdowns.

The win was the sixth of the season for Northwestern, which finished its regular-season schedule at 6-6 and its conference schedule at 5-4. The Cats will head back to the postseason after last year's 10-win campaign.

The loss dropped the Illini to 3-9 overall and 2-7 in the Big Ten, an ugly though not completely unexpected finish in the first season under Lovie Smith.

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

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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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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.