Big Ten

Spartans open season with win at Western Michigan

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Spartans open season with win at Western Michigan

It wasn’t exactly a blowout, this season-opening matchup between the No. 5 team in the country and a MAC opponent, but Michigan State got the win it was expected to get Friday night.

The first half was a prolific one for the Spartans, who scored four touchdowns on four quick scoring drives. And despite being outscored by Western Michigan, 14-10, in the second half, Michigan State walked out of Kalamazoo with a still-convincing 37-24 victory.

Connor Cook did a dandy of a job kicking off a season of high expectations for himself and the team, throwing for 256 yards and a pair of touchdowns with just 15 completions. The Michigan State offense as a whole was mighty impressive, accumulating 452 total yards, with 196 of those coming from a run game that had a few question marks with the departure of Jeremy Langford. L.J. Scott rushed 13 times for 77 yards, Madre London rushed 13 times for 59 yards and Gerald Holmes rushed nine times for 54 yards. London scored two touchdowns, and Holmes scored one.

Cook led touchdown drives of 34 seconds, three minutes and 49 seconds, one minute and 41 seconds and two minutes and 37 seconds in the first half, showing that last year’s electric Michigan State offense still has the same capabilities.

[MORE BIG TEN: Harbaugh's newness can’t keep Michigan from looking the same in season-opening loss]

Cook hooked up with Josiah Price for a first-half touchdown and DeAnthony Arnett for a second-half score.

The Spartans defense, which lost defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi over the offseason, had a mixed bag of an evening. While it was tremendous in stopping the run, limiting Western Michigan to a jaw-droppingly low 18 rushing yards on 23 carries, the pass defense — breaking in a few new starters — was exploited for 365 yards but also intercepted a pair of passes.

Western Michigan had a couple impressive drives in the second half, scoring touchdowns on back-to-back possessions to get the game as close as 10 points. The first was a near-eight-minute drive that covered 75 yards and answered Michigan State’s touchdown-scoring drive to open the third quarter. After a Spartans punt, the Broncos went 80 yards in eight plays for a touchdown that couldn’t help but make MSU supporters sweat just a bit.

The biggest issue for Michigan State, though, was a strange one: kick-return coverage. Western Michigan returned the opening kickoff for 65 yards, and the next went for a 100-yard touchdown.

While this was the win the Spartans wanted to start things off with in 2015, there'll be things to clean up heading into the big Week 2 matchup with Oregon.

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.