Northwestern sure is getting used to this overtime thing.
For the second straight game, the Wildcats needed more than 60 minutes to determine a winner, and for the second straight game, the Cats scored a win in extra time. This time, it was Northwestern taking down the 16th-ranked team in the country, Michigan State, in a 39-31 thriller in Evanston.
The Cats nearly won it in regulation, breaking a 10-all tie with a fourth-quarter, trick-play touchdown pass from Justin Jackson and holding a seven-point edge into the game's final minute. But Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke led the Spartans on a last-minute scoring drive, tying the game with a touchdown with 25 seconds left and forcing overtime.
Clayton Thorson pitched a touchdown pass in the first overtime, a feat matched by Lewerke. Lewerke put the Spartans in front in the second overtime, only for Jackson to tie the game with a scoring rush. Thorson tossed a 22-yard pass to Flynn Nagel on the third play of the third overtime and tacked on a two-point conversion to make it an eight-point game before Michigan State got its shot.
But on the Spartans' second play, Lewerke dropped the ball, picked it back up and heaved a throw to the end zone, where Nate Hall intercepted the pass and ended the game.
It was a thrilling finish to an uncharacteristically offense-heavy game for both teams. Northwestern finished with 432 total yards, Thorson passing for 356 of those. Lewerke racked up an astonishing 445 passing yards and threw four touchdown passes, the bulk of Michigan State's 540 total yards.
It was the Spartans' first loss in conference play and just their second loss on the season. The Cats moved to 5-3 and 3-2 in the Big Ten with their third straight win.
Northwestern will try to make it four straight when it travels to take on Nebraska.
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 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.