Illinois 48, Northwestern 27: Just the facts

Illinois 48, Northwestern 27: Just the facts

Postgame video here

Bob Asmussen's breakdown of Saturday's game

PLAY OF THE GAME

Just a simple call. Give the ball to No. 5 and see how far he can go. The answer, on the first carry of the game, was 32 yards. It was early proof that it was going to be a special day for Mikel Leshoure. The most special. For any Illinois running back. Using the 32-yard run as a blueprint, the Illini kept giving it to Leshoure, and he produced. He averaged 10 yards per carry. Coaches will take a first-down run on every first down. Leshoure becomes a lock for All-Big Ten and might push his way into the MVP race. Leshoure is within 310 yards of Rashard Mendenhall's Illinois season record.

NUMBERS GAME: 45.4

That's the Illinois scoring average in the last five games. Paul Petrino's offense seems to have picked up some legs. The team has scored at least 40 points in four of its last five games. And holding the ball for 41:16 like it did Saturday will help improve the defensive averages after Vic Koenning's unit gave up 103 points against Michigan and Minnesota. The 21 points Illinois scored in the opening quarter was the second most in the Ron Zook era.

WHAT IT MEANS

Illinois is going bowling. Definitely. For the first time since 2007 and for the fourth time since 1994. The bowl options for the Illini could come down to two games in the Lone Star State: Texas and TicketCity. The Insight Bowl was represented Saturday, so maybe that's a third option. The big question will be where Illinois lines up in the Big Ten pecking order after the big four: Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan State and Iowa. The Illini are battling Michigan, Penn State and Northwestern for the remaining spots.

WHAT'S NEXT

The Illini get next weekend off. But that doesn't mean there won't be any football this week. The players will take a break Monday to Wednesday, then return Thursday evening for a workout. They will also practice Friday, Saturday and Sunday before going into game- week mode. The regular season finale is Dec. 3 at Fresno State. The Bulldogs, who beat Illinois in an amazing 2009 game, got trounced Friday night by Boise State.

Categories (3):Illini Sports, Football, Sports

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jeffh wrote on November 20, 2010 at 10:11 pm

Could this be the best win of the "Post Rose Bowl Zook Era?"

I think it could be said it is. Some reasons:

The defense only allowed a field goal in the 2nd half.

Zook called -- and the offense converted a key "4th and 1."

Despite Northwestern doing everything they could to make the outcome as certain as a Chicago mayoral election during the Daley era, the Illini shook off two depressing performances and prevailed -- winning the physical battle in the process.

Hopefully a win to build on -- against Fresno State, into a Bowl Game and next season -- and to start reversing the trend of losing to Northwestern!

TotalIlliniFan wrote on November 21, 2010 at 6:11 am

Better play all around can be positive foundation for the extra practices during the bye week so that we dominate this time vs fsu. If records are the same we get picked for a bowl before NW (but not MI or PSU since they have DR and Joe and are "brands"). Let's change that.

kfj wrote on November 21, 2010 at 10:11 am

News from Western PA for possible future Illini if the coaches get in to the Pittsburgh area and recruit there...

Clairton advances to final again

By Josh Yohe, MCKEESPORT DAILY NEWS

Saturday, November 20, 2010

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Josh Yohe is a McKeesport Daily News staff writer and can be reached at 412-664-9161 or via e-mail.

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Even when the Clairton football team plays poorly, at least by its gaudy standards, victory never really seems in doubt.

The Bears were sloppy most of the evening against Springdale in the WPIAL Class A semifinals at Yough Friday night, but were never in danger of being upset, which was the result when these teams previously met.

Desimon Green accounted for four touchdowns, Karvonn “Mud Puppy” Coles rushed for 118 yards, and the Clairton defense was dominant again in a 26-7 win.

“I’m happy with the end result and happy to be going back to Heinz Field,” Clairton coach Tom Nola said. “But we didn’t play a real good game. We need to be better.”

In what has become a Thanksgiving tradition, Clairton will meet Rochester in the WPIAL championship game. Clairton will attempt to win a third consecutive WPIAL title on Dec. 4 at 9:30 a.m. at Heinz Field.

“We knew they’d be waiting for us,” Clairton junior Trenton Coles said. “That’s OK with us.”

The Coles brothers played a huge role in leading the Bears over Springdale.

Karvonn Coles needed only nine carries for his 118 yards. He ripped off a 51-yard run the first time he touched the ball and was Clairton’s only reliable offense against the Dynamos’ terrific defense.

In his first year playing at the varsity level, the sophomore is pleased with his recent emergence.

“I had to earn this playing time,” Coles said. “Nothing was given to me.”

Green scored three touchdowns on the ground and hit Trenton Coles for a 36-yard touchdown pass late in the second quarter.

At the time, the Bears were hardly in control. Up only 6-0 and facing a 4th-and-18 at the 36, Clairton called a timeout, hoping to find some offense before halftime.

Coles ran down the right sideline and Green threw into double coverage. The junior receiver managed to come down with the ball and stay in the end zone.

“I was close to being out of bounds,” Coles said. “I’m not sure how close, but it was close. It was definitely a big play at the time.”

As far as Springdale is concerned, it was the game’s biggest play.

“That was the one that got us,” Springdale coach Chuck Wagner said. “At that point, we had played pretty well and we had a lot of momentum going. But when they scored there, that was tough to come back from.”

Springdale is the proverbial team that is not built to come from behind. In fact, the Dynamos attempted only one pass all game.

Clairton finally took complete control in the second half, thanks to two drives that ended in Green touchdowns.

“There’s just only so much you can do against them,” Wagner said. “They just have so darned many athletes, and eventually, one of them is going to get you. I’d say they’re as talented as any Class A football team I’ve ever seen.”

Clairton was forced to deal with some injuries during the game, although most weren’t serious. Green left the game on two occasions because of cramping, and late in the game, star senior Marquis “Butt-Butt” Norris also left with cramping.

The only possibly significant Clairton injury entering the WPIAL championship game is to center Carvan Thompson. He has been dealing with back issues all season and injured his knee in the third quarter against Springdale.

“I’m not really sure how serious it is right now,” Nola said.

Regardless of the Bears’ injury situation, they will be the favorite at Heinz Field next week.

Clairton has defeated Rochester four straight times, including twice in the WPIAL championship game.

“I suspect it will be a good football game,” Wagner said. “Clairton has more talent than anyone, but Rochester is a good football team. I have so much respect for both programs.”

Green rushed for 61 yards and added 89 through the air.

Josh Page, who has been Green’s favorite target all season, was held without a catch.

This wasn’t a night for statistics, however. It was merely a night for survival, which Clairton handled with ease.

“We won the game and that’s what matters,” Nola said. “Hopefully we’ll be better next week.”

NOTES — Former Clairton stars Kevin Weatherspoon, Kurtis Rassan, Quinton Brody, Andre Carr and Andrew Carr attended the game. ... Also in attendance were two former Clairton defensive coordinators — McKeesport Area coach Jim Ward and McKeesport Area assistant Mike LeDonne — and former Serra Catholic head coach Rich Bowen.

kfj wrote on November 21, 2010 at 4:11 pm

Plenty to build on at Springdale

By Bill Beckner Jr., VALLEY NEWS DISPATCH

Sunday, November 21, 2010

About the writer

Bill Beckner Jr. is the Valley News Dispatch sports editor and can be reached at 724-224-2696 or via e-mail.

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It was a tearful final walk to the locker room Friday night for Nathan Joyce, Springdale's 6-foot-6, 350-pound lineman.

"We gave them all we had," Joyce said.

Springdale's A-K Valley record ninth straight WPIAL playoff appearance came to an end with a 26-7 loss to two-time defending champion Clairton (12-0) in the Class A semifinals. But the Dynamos (10-2), the No. 5 seed, played the top-seeded Bears closer than any team had all year.

For that reason, the Dynamos walked off the field at Yough's Cougar Mountain Stadium with their heads held high.

"We still feel we can play with anybody," Joyce said. "We thought we did a lot of things well in this game. It just wasn't our destiny to win."

Clairton, which has outscored its opponents, 598-26, was allowing just 1.5 rushing yards per game. But Springdale rushed for 196. Junior quarterback Joe Killian ran for a team-high 99 yards. Senior Bill Arch, who surpassed the 1,000-yard mark for the season, added 59 and a touchdown.

"Coach Wagner had his kids ready to play," said Clairton coach Tom Nola, whose team will play Rochester on Saturday for the title at Heinz Field. "He always does."

Nola admitted his team wasn't at its best against the Dynamos.

"Springdale will do that to you," he said.

Springdale has reached the semifinals five of the past eight years, including a WPIAL title in 2003 and a runner-up finish in '07. The program hasn't experienced a losing season since 2001. Next season also has promise, with the return of eight starters, including six on defense.

Killian gained valuable experience running the offense and could be more of a dual threat next fall. Springdale threw for less than 400 yards this season, relying almost solely on a bevy of running backs. The Dynamos attempted one pass Friday night and only six in three playoff games total.

"We didn't want to put too much pressure on (Killian)," Wagner said. "Running-wise, he's really come along very well. If we get him working on his passing, that'll certainly help us, too."

Springdale should continue to be strong on defense, with key returnees at linebacker and cornerback. Sean Dugan and Chris Liberto return as key two-way players.

"We have some good kids up on the line, too," Wagner said. "When our two seniors (Jake Summerill and Joyce) were hurt there for a while, a couple of our younger guys came in and did a good job for us."

Juniors Nick Korzon and Nick Welsh earned valuable minutes on the lines. Welsh played through pain with a knee injury much of the season.

"I am so proud of that kid," defensive coordinator Don "Pappy" Boulton said. "He played all season on that bad knee. The doctors wanted him to have an operation and miss this season and he said, 'No, I'll get that done after the season.' He never complained once — never uttered a word."