Big Ten

Northwestern falls to 0-2 as Illinois State pulls upset with walk-off FG

Northwestern falls to 0-2 as Illinois State pulls upset with walk-off FG

Northwestern won 10 games a season ago, its only losses coming against top teams in Michigan, Iowa and Tennessee.

Well, if the Wildcats are going to win 10 regular-season games in 2016, they'll have to win out.

Northwestern suffered another gut-wrenching loss Saturday, falling to 0-2 after FCS opponent Illinois State kicked a game-winning field goal with three seconds left to win an ugly 9-7 affair.

Neither team could do much of anything on the offensive end, and Northwestern was getting shut out for the vast majority of the afternoon. Illinois State scored a first-half touchdown but stayed at six points when it missed the extra point, the second missed kick of the game after the Redbirds missed a field goal try earlier in the contest.

Finally, in the fourth quarter, the Cats broke through, Clayton Thorson connecting with Austin Carr on a touchdown pass on a fourth-and-five play from 10 yards out.

The Redbirds had one final drive in them, though, marching 71 yards in 11 plays over the game's final three minutes to set up for a game-winning kick. Pat Fitzgerald spent two timeouts icing the opposing kicker, but Sean Slattery booted off the left upright and through for the game-deciding score.

For a second straight week, Northwestern coughed away a game late. In the season-opening loss to Western Michigan, Thorson fumbled on the goal line in the game's final minutes, leading to a 22-21 loss.

The Cats' offense was ineffective as could be Saturday, totaling just 277 yards and seven points. Northwestern rushed for just 86 yards as star running back Justin Jackson received just 11 carries for 39 yards. Thorson completed 17 of his 41 passing attempts for 191 yards and a touchdown, still without an interception on the season.

The Cats' defense picked off Illinois State twice but allowed 372 total yards.

Northwestern is off to a gruesome 0-2 start to the campaign and takes on Duke next weekend to close out the non-conference portion of its schedule.

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.