Big Ten

Northwestern wins as Purdue can't capitalize on turnovers

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Northwestern wins as Purdue can't capitalize on turnovers

Northwestern turned the ball over three times on Saturday, but its defense bailed it out.

Purdue couldn’t turn those turnovers into any points, and the Cats got a late touchdown drive from the offense to beat the Boilermakers, 21-14, at Ryan Field.

Clayton Thorson earned a mid-game benching when he threw an interception in the third quarter. But he reentered the game in the fourth and led what proved to be the game-winning scoring drive, which ended in a tie-breaking Justin Jackson touchdown run.

Jackson finished with 116 rushing yards on the afternoon, while the Northwestern defense starred, limiting Purdue to just 360 total yards of offense and just 73 on the ground.

[MORE BIG TEN: Illini offense silent as Buckeyes get big day from Ezekiel Elliott in win]

Both teams got touchdowns on their first drive of the game, an abnormality for squads that usually can’t score with much ease.

Warren Long capped a seven-play, 75-yard drive with a 32-yard touchdown tote to open the scoring. But on the first play of the next drive, Purdue quarterback David Blough pitched a 68-yard touchdown pass to even the score. It was Blough’s third touchdown throw of at least 60 yards this season, and he’s the only quarterback in the conference with more than one of those.

The offenses returned to their typical ineffectiveness following the early spurts, and as the first half wore on, turnovers came fast and furious. Blough was intercepted by Traveon Henry, giving the Cats a short field. Northwestern went 41 yards in six plays — highlighted by Miles Sheller’s 26-yard run — and Long punched it in for his second touchdown of the day.

Jackson fumbled on the next Northwestern drive, but Purdue couldn’t capitalize on a turnover the same way the Cats had, turning the ball over on downs outside of the red zone and allowing Northwestern to take a touchdown lead into halftime.

[MORE BIG TEN: Protesters interrupt Northwestern athletics complex groundbreaking]

Markell Jones’ touchdown run made sure that lead didn’t last long into the second half, tying the game at 14 in the opening minutes of the third quarter.

The Boilermakers missed a field goal attempt that would've broken the tie, but Thorson gave them another scoring chance with an interception in Northwestern territory. But again Purdue couldn’t do a thing off the turnover, going three and out on the ensuing drive.

After that interception, Northwestern replaced Thorson with Zack Oliver at quarterback, and the senior’s first two passes went for 13- and 37-yard gains inside the Purdue 30-yard line. But Oliver threw an interception of his own on a critical third down, the Cats’ third turnover of the game. But as happened twice before, Purdue couldn’t capitalize and went three and out following the Oliver pick.

Thorson reentered the game in the fourth quarter. He led a long touchdown drive, picking up back-to-back gains of 16 yards apiece on quarterback keepers before Jackson pounded it in for the score that gave the Cats a 21-14 lead.

[SHOP BIG TEN: Get your Northwestern gear right here]

Thorson and Oliver combined to complete just 11 of their 24 passing attempts for a paltry 132 yards, with no touchdown passes and two interceptions. But the run game fared significantly better, with Jackson and Long combining for 168 yards and three touchdown runs on 30 carries.

The win sent No. 18 Northwestern to 8-2 on the season, and wins in the final two regular-season games against Wisconsin and Illinois would deliver the program's first 10-win season since 2012, the second since the Rose Bowl season of 1995 and the fourth in program history.

If the Cats win both their remaining regular-season games and the bowl game they clinched two wins ago, it would mark the first 11-win season in Northwestern history.

The loss, meanwhile, dropped the Boilermakers to 2-8. Games at Iowa and Indiana round our Purdue's season.

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.