Big Ten

Rare absence of run game leads to Badgers loss vs. Alabama

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Rare absence of run game leads to Badgers loss vs. Alabama

Wisconsin doesn’t often struggle to run the ball.

But with an inexperienced offensive line that hasn’t had much time to jell while battling injuries during training camp, new No. 1 back Corey Clement banged up on Saturday night and going up against a routinely terrific Alabama defense, the Badgers couldn’t get anything going on the ground in the season-opener. And that rare occurrence meant no chance to knock off the No. 3 team in the country as No. 20 Wisconsin fell, 35-17.

Clement, entering the season with a lot of hype after the departure of all-history running back Melvin Gordon, was bothered by a groin injury Saturday night and carried the ball just eight times for 16 yards, a virtual non-factor as Wisconsin’s perennially potent rushing attack mustered just 40 yards during a blowout loss.

That meant a lot of attention on the Badgers’ passing game in its first game under new head coach Paul Chryst. Quarterback Joel Stave looked like a new man in the first half after last season’s well-documented battle with the yips. He passed for 149 yards and a touchdown in the first half and finished completing 25 of his 37 passing attempts for 216 yards and two touchdowns.

[MORE BIG TEN: Behind stellar defense, Northwestern chops down Stanford in upset]

But the Badgers offense in general was ineffective, especially in the second half, as they gained just 97 total yards after halftime.

Alabama got on the board first, with running back Derrick Henry rushing 37 yards for the Tide’s first touchdown. After Stave answered with his first touchdown pass, Jake Coker put the Tide back in front by seven with a touchdown pass.

Wisconsin kicker Rafael Galianone missed a field goal right before halftime, a big moment that could have brought the Badgers within four. Instead, they went to the break down seven and quickly saw that deficit grow thanks to a pair of third-quarter touchdown runs by Henry of 56 and two yards, respectively.

Once Gaglianone converted a field goal with a minute left in the third quarter, it was too late for the Badgers to come back, and another long touchdown run for Alabama — this one 43 yards — sealed things ahead of Stave’s second touchdown pass late in the game.

[MORE BIG TEN: Illini respond to tough week with absolute rout of Kent State]

The Wisconsin defense started the game in great fashion, with linebacker Joe Schobert and Vince Biegel and defensive back Sojourn Shelton making some great plays. But safety Michael Caputo, a team captain, left the game on the first drive with an apparent concussion, and the Badgers defense suffered without him on the field. Unlike the Badgers, the Tide had no trouble picking up yardage on the ground, rushing for a team total of 238 yards. Alabama went for 502 total yards on the night, a shocking total against a Wisconsin defense that was one of the nation's best a season ago.

Saturday’s result will place a large emphasis on the offensive line moving forward. In addition to the almost complete absence of a run game — unheard of for a Wisconsin team — Stave was under constant pressure, particularly as the game wore on.

But the injuries to Clement and Caputo will be of the biggest concern, as those two are two of the team's best players.

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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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.