Big Ten

Northwestern stays perfect with big non-conference win over Duke

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Northwestern stays perfect with big non-conference win over Duke

Two weeks after beating perennial Pac-12 contender Stanford to open the 2015 season with a bang, Northwestern scored another huge non-conference win Saturday.

The 23rd-ranked Cats emerged from a road trip to Durham, N.C., with a 19-10 win over Duke, one of the ACC's better teams, keeping their perfect record intact at 3-0.

It was hardly a banner day for offense, but the defenses were both terrific, Northwestern continuing its trend of being stellar against opposing offenses. The Cats finally yielded their first touchdown of the season, though they don't deserve all the blame for it, the score coming after a Clayton Thorson interception set Duke up at the Northwestern 26-yard line.

That touchdown put the Blue Devils in front early, but the offenses both stalled from there, with Northwestern getting a second-quarter field goal to make it a four-point game.

But the Cats got the big play the offense couldn't produce from its special teams, with Solomon Vault returning the opening kickoff of the second half 98 yards for a go-ahead score.

[MORE BIG TEN: Illini fail first true test, crushed by North Carolina]

The teams traded second-half field goals after the Vault kick return before Warren Long went 55 yards on the ground in the fourth quarter for a touchdown to effectively seal the game.

Northwestern's defense was again sensational, keeping Duke out of the end zone following the score on the short field. The Blue Devils gained just 327 total yards of offense and were just 3-for-17 on third down. The Cats forced three turnovers. Linebacker Anthony Walker was again the star of the show, recording a whopping 19 total tackles. Defensive end Dean Lowry had a remarkable tipped interception, and Godwin Igwebuike forced and recovered a fumble.

It was an ugly day for the Northwestern offense, which gained a paltry 271 total yards. Running back Justin Jackson had another big day on the ground with 120 yards on 35 carries. Thorson, though, struggled, completing nine of his 23 passing attempts for just 70 yards and zero touchdowns, throwing a pair of interceptions.

But regardless of how the offense played, it was another excellent win for Northwestern. The Cats are a perfect 3-0 and will surely see their top-25 ranking improve this week. With only Ball State remaining on the non-conference schedule, the Cats have a terrific opportunity to be 4-0 when Big Ten play begins.

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.