Big Ten

Spartans shock Michigan with unbelievable game-winning fumble return


Spartans shock Michigan with unbelievable game-winning fumble return

You've seen Hail Marys. You remember the Kick Six. Well this might be an even more improbable way to win a game than all of that.

Michigan State trailed Michigan by two points with 10 seconds remaining in Saturday's rivalry game between two top-12 teams. The Wolverines lined up to punt with the game practically decided, or so we thought. Michigan punter Blake O'Neill fumbled the snap on the punt, and Michigan State's Jalen Watts-Jackson picked it up and ran it back 38 yards for a game-winning touchdown with no time remaining on the clock. The insane final play gave the Spartans a 27-23 win and kept their record unblemished at 7-0.

Take a look:

It was an obviously shocking finish, considering everyone was already talking about Michigan State's undefeated season being over and Michigan ascending to one of the two top spots in the Big Ten. But that talk was dashed away with that final play. The Spartans remain perfect and are very much in the hunt for a spot in the College Football Playoff. The Wolverines are left stunned though still looking like a terrific football team.

The game's final play almost wiped out the memories of the previous 59 minutes and 50 seconds of football. It was an entertaining game, one where defense reigned, unsurprisingly. Despite being banged up badly this season, the Michigan State defense turned in a superb performance, holding Michigan to just 230 total offensive yards. Neither team gained much traction on the ground, with the Spartans going for 58 and the Wolverines gaining 62.

It was the play of Connor Cook that produced the majority of the game's offense. The Michigan State quarterback passed for 328 yards and a touchdown in the win.

Michigan full back Sione Houma broke a scoreless tie in the second quarter with a touchdown run, a score that was answered shortly thereafter by Michigan State running back LJ Scott's scoring rush. The Wolverines tacked on a field goal before the end of the half to make it a 10-7 game.

In the third quarter, Houma scored again to put the Wolverines up 10. Cook answered with a beautiful 30-yard touchdown toss to Macgarrett Kings to bring the Spartans back within three. But Michigan added another field goal before the close of the third quarter and another not far into the fourth to make it a two-score game.

The game's most explosive play was Cook's pass to full back Trevon Pendleton that went 75 yards for a touchdown, though the score was called back to the one-yard line after review. Scott rushed in for a touchdown on the next play, cutting Michigan's lead to two.

The Spartans' attempt at a game-winning drive stalled out when Cook's fourth-and-19 pass fell incomplete. Michigan took over and wound the clock down as low as it could before the madness in the final 10 seconds.

Michigan State's win doesn't do much to shed its reputation of surviving by the skin of its teeth, but that's a much more impressive feat against Michigan than it was against Purdue and Rutgers. The win should restore some of the respect to the Spartans' playoff resume.

Meanwhile, Michigan shouldn't lose any supporters as being one of the country's better teams. But it will be very difficult to crash the College Football Playoff field with two losses, plus there's a game against No. 1 Ohio State remaining on the schedule.

Northwestern running back Jeremy Larkin diagnosed with cervical stenosis, will retire immediately


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


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.