FINAL: Northwestern 50, Illinois 14.
EVANSTON - Now what?
After another lopsided loss - this administered by Northwestern, 50-14 - does Illinois shake up its coaching staff? Does Mike Thomas stand pat? Does anyone care?
The Illini will have plenty of questions to answer in what likely will be a hectic offseason.
Venric Mark rushed for 127 yards and a touchdown as Northwestern improved its chances for a berth in a New Year’s Day bowl game. Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter threw for a career-high three touchdowns and the Wildcats (9-3, 5-3 Big Ten) reached nine victories for the first time since 2008.
Penalties and turnovers hurt Illinois (2-10, 0-8), which has lost nine straight and 14 in a row in Big Ten play. The Illini committed four turnovers — including three interceptions — and eight penalties in their season finale.
Northwestern captured the Land of Lincoln Trophy after losing to the Illini in the rivalry game the last two seasons.
Donovonn Young rushed for 74 yards and a touchdown for Illinois, which ranks last in the Big Ten in scoring offense in coach Tim Beckman’s first season. Nathan Scheelhaase went 9 for 14 for 91 yards and two interceptions.
Northwestern led 27-14 at halftime, then scored early in the third quarter on Colter’s 15-yard pass to Tyris Jones. The Wildcats turned the game into a rout with a 24-yard touchdown catch by a wide-open Paul Jorgensen from Colter for a 41-14 lead after Ibraheim Campbell intercepted Scheelhaase.
After another Illinois interception, Mike Trumpy scored on a 3-yard run for a 48-14 lead. Northwestern recorded a safety with 3 minutes left.
Despite struggling on offense all season, Illinois showed life early.
The Illini scored on the opening drive on Young’s 15-yard run. The drive covered 78 yards and ate up 6:02 on the clock. A penalty nullified a 2-point conversion attempt, but the Illini nailed the extra-point kick.
Northwestern answered with Jeff Budzien’s 44-yard field goal to make it 7-3.
The Wildcats took the lead for good 32 seconds later. Illinois fumbled on the kickoff return and Northwestern scored on Colter’s 2-yard run for a 10-7 lead. Illinois ranked last in the Big Ten in turnover margin with minus-10.
Colter left the game with an apparent leg injury late in the first quarter. Trevor Siemian replaced him and threw an interception on his first pass attempt. Scheelhaase immediately threw a pick, and a sideline interference call on the Illini brought the Wildcats to the Northwestern 12. Beckman fell over and made contact with an official, resulting in the penalty. Northwestern scored on a 9-yard pass from Colter to Tony Jones for a 17-7 lead.
Reilly O’Toole took over at quarterback for Illinois early in the second quarter and scored on a 12-yard run to cut the lead to 17-14 with 10:55 left before halftime.
The Wildcats responded with a 3-yard touchdown run by Mark, capping a 79-yard drive to take a 24-14 lead.
Budzien kicked a 36-yard field goal for a 27-14 Northwestern halftime lead. The Wildcats reached the Illinois 9, but a clipping penalty pushed them back to the 24, and Northwestern had to settle for the field goal. — AP
Northwestern 27, Illinois 14 — Halftime
First-half star: Venric Mark, Northwestern. The diminutive running back is having his way against the Illini defense, breaking off sizable runs on the regular. The 180-pound junior has run for 94 yards on 13 carries and a TD.
First-half goat: Tim Beckman, Illinois. It’s been a rough season for the first-year coach. It started with the flap about recruiting Penn State players, continued with the tobacco incident at Wisconsin and continued further with the two sideline penalties against the Illini today, the last seeing the head coach falling to his backside on the sideline and getting in the way of an official. That’s not to mention the horrendous play on the field all season.
What we’re thinking: There are only 30 minutes remaining in the season. Where is everyone? This team is headed to 9-4. How the heck did NU win eight games? They can’t tackle anyone. Do they have to play the second half?
By the numbers:
88 — penalty yards against the Illini. They’ve been flagged eight times.
15 — penalty yards against the Wildcats. They were called for a clip with 38 seconds left.
67 — rushing yards by Illinois’ Donovonn Young on seven carries.
14 — first-half points for the Illini. They’ve only had 14 or more three other times this season against FBS opponents.
190 — rushing yards for NU. Venric Mark has 94 of them.
75 — rushing yards for NU quarterback Kain Colter on 11 carries.
2 — quarterbacks used today for Illinois. Nathan Scheelhaase was 7 for 10 for 78 yards and a pick before being benched. Reilly O’Toole os 2 for 2 for 26 yards and has a 12-yard TD run.
208 — total yards for NU.
205 — total yards for Illinois.
23 — consecutive games in which Illinois has committed at least one turnover.
2 — quarters of football remaining in Illinois’ season.
Illinois at Northwestern — Kickoff
The Illinois captains today are Michael Buchanan, Tommy Davis, Spencer Harris and Glenn Foster.
The Illini won the toss and elected to receive. Weird, they always defer. Northwestern will defend the north end zone.
It's 30 degrees at kickoff with a windchill of 24. Wind is out of the northwest at 6 mph.
Made the rounds and got some predictions for you. Everyone went with the 'Cats.
Mark Tupper from the Decatur Herald and Review says 41-6
Fletcher Page from Scout.com says 24-10
There are like 13 Daily Illini kids here. The rundown of their scores: 34-13, 35-7, 31-7 and 31-13.
I went with 38-10.
Loren picked the Bulls.
OK, I'll check in with you good folks at halftime.
Illinois at Northwestern — 15 minutes before kickoff
It’s Senior Day here at Northwestern and the 22 NU seniors are being honored here on the field prior to kickoff. This is the winningest senior class in school history. Their 38 wins are two more than last year’s class.
Since I’ve still got your attention (I think) here’s how this is going to work today. I will update you again at kickoff and then not against until halftime. I repeat, HALFTIME, will be the next update after the game starts. Then we’ll post a short game story at the end.
For some more frequent updates on what’s happening and what Loren is saying, follow me on Twitter (@MarcusJ_NG). I’ll try to hit you with some stuff you don’t get on the broadcast.
There is nobody here, by the way. It’s a shame Northwestern can’tdraw very well, because this has been a very solid program. If Illinois was 8-3 and had been to four straight bowl games, Memorial Stadium would be packed.
They need a new scoreboard here, too, that thing is older than Loren.
Speaking of scoreboards, really excited to see how the new one at Memorial Stadium is going to look. I’m told it probably won’t be installed until the spring at the earliest. Makes sense, no need to get it all beat up during the harsh Midwest winter.
Here are some things to watch out for today. I like the comment below (Northwestern is good, UI is not). Pretty much sums it up.
Be back at kickoff.
Illinois at Northwestern — 45 minutes before kickoff
So, there’s a basketball game tomorrow. I’m expecting a nice crowd at the Assembly Hall tomorrow to welcome the 6-0 Illini back from Hawaii for their game against Gardner-Webb. “
Not sure many expected the Illini to be unbeaten after the Hawaii trip, but they are and they’ve done it in pretty impressive fashion, averaging 83 points per game. Right now, the team is trying to transition back to the Central Time Zone after spending a week four time zones west. John Groce isn’t worried about his team adjusting, however.
I’ve been asked over and over if the Illini will be ranked this week. There’s a very good chance they will be and at the very least they’ll receive votes. I’m still working on my poll, there’s a good chance they get into ours.
Some have tried to diminish Illinois’ championship at Maui because they didn’t have to play one of the so-called heavyweights. Here’s what Groce had to say about that.
“Call Roy Williams and ask him if he thinks Butler is any good. It’s one of those deals where you can’t control that but the teams we played were good. The environment we played in at Hawaii was tough. You have to be extremely physically and mentally tough to play Butler. Believe me, no one appreciates that more than me. I worked there and I’ve got a great feel for their culture and their disposition.”
Oh, we’re at a football game, sorry.
Both teams are on the field going through their preparations. Northwestern is going with the black jerseys, black helmets and purple pants.
The ‘Cats have a pretty good quarterback coming here next year. Maine South’s Matt Alviti was our All-State Player of the Year. Fred Kroner profiled Alviti earlier this week. Last year’s All-State Player of the Year, Wes Lunt from Rochester, is the starting quarterback now at Oklahoma State.
Illinois at Northwestern — 60 minutes before kickoff
Good morning and welcome (finally) to the final football game of the 2012 season. Marcus Jackson joining you from an empty Ryan Field as Northwestern looks to get to nine wins for the first time since 2008 against the Illini.
It's a typical late-fall Chicago morning. It's 29 degrees an hour before kickoff with a wind chill of 22 degrees. The wind is out of the northwest at 7 mph.
I know first hand that it's pretty chilly out there. I had to walk about a mile from the unmarked parking lot to the Ryan Field press box. Sorry, no more complaining from me.
Ran into Nathan Scheelhaase's dad, Nate Creer, in the way up to the press box. Big Nate was his usual upbeat self. The rough season the Illini and his son have had hasn't changed that man at all. To borrow a phrase from Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas "He makes caffeine nervous."
Certainly you folks want to hear all about the football team, right? Well, Illinois' specialists are on the field doing what they do. The Illini will go with the white pants, white jerseys and blue helmets for the 2012 finale. I believe that's the first time they've gone with that combo. We'll probably talk a lot of hoops in this space coming up, John Groce and Co. have energized the down-trodden Illinois fan base with their play to start the 2012-13 season.
But, since this is a fooball deal, I'll give you some things to catch up on as we approach kickoff.
Here's my Q&A with Michael Buchanan this week. He'll play on Sundays next year.
I'll be back in a few with another update. Loren Tate just sat down. He's got his binoculars ready and a cup of coffee. His voice sounds like he did some serious partying on Rush Street last night.