Big Ten

Penn State defense dominates hapless Illini offense in blowout

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Penn State defense dominates hapless Illini offense in blowout

The Illinois offense has been anything but a well-oiled machine this season, recently plagued by injuries at the skill positions.

But there was absolutely nothing happening for the Illini on Saturday, as a dominant Penn State defense shut things down in a blowout 39-0 win for the Nittany Lions in Happy Valley.

Illinois gained just 167 total yards of offense and couldn't do a thing offensively up against one of the best defenses in the country. Penn State's terrific defensive line prevented any success rushing the ball — not that the Illini tried to run too much, anyway — and hounded quarterback Wes Lunt, who threw an interception and was sacked three times.

The Illini led the Big Ten entering the weekend with just eight sacks allowed. Penn State, the national leader in sacks, dropped Illinois quarterbacks a total of four times Saturday.

And while the Illini offense did nothing, the defense couldn't fend off the Lions' offense, led by a strong effort by Christian Hackenberg, who threw for 266 yards and two touchdowns, also catching a touchdown pass on a trick play.

[MORE BIG TEN: Corey Clement scores three TDs in return as Badgers blast Rutgers]

Hackenberg's first touchdown pass of the day put the Lions on top, 6-0, before Troy Reeder picked off Lunt and returned it to the Illinois six-yard line, setting up Hackenberg's second touchdown pass.

The Illinois defense stood pretty tall for the remainder of the first half, forcing a fumble and bending but not breaking on several Penn State drives. The Lions would only get a field goal the rest of the half and led, 15-0, at the break, certainly in striking distance for the Illini.

But the offense became even less effective in the second half, gaining just 29 yards in the entire final 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, Penn State got a trick-play touchdown toss from running back Nick Scott to Hackenberg as well as touchdown runs from Saquon Barkley and Mark Allen to turn the game into a blowout.

[SHOP BIG TEN: Get your Fighting Illini gear right here]

Penn State's defense clamped down to the ultimate degree, shutting Illinois down to the tune of 167 total yards and just 37 on the ground. Lunt completed just 16 of his 36 passing attempts for 129 yards, while the team rushed just 27 times for 37 yards.

Hackenberg had the most impressive day for the Lions, who also got an 84-yard rushing day from Barkley. Penn State racked up 400 yards of total offense, and the 39 points were the most the Lions scored this season.

Penn State improved to 7-2 overall and 4-1 in the Big Ten with the win. Illinois dropped to 4-4 overall and 1-3 in conference play with the loss, still two wins away from bowl eligibility.

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.