Champaign, IL — The University of Illinois Fighting Illini (6-6) fell short in their rivalry game against the Northwestern Wildcats (3-9) Saturday afternoon at the Memorial Stadium, 29-10.
For the first time since 2011, Northwestern came into today’s kickoff as the underdogs and were looking for their first win in the Big Ten Conference this season. The Wildcats didn’t waste much time to prove that their subpar record wasn’t their identity.
Both teams got off to a slow start to begin the ballgame with Northwestern striking first on a 33-yard field goal late in the opening period. However, Illinois responded in the second quarter and took the lead thanks to a Nate Hobbs interception that would bring the Fighting Illini into Wildcat territory.
Illinois wouldn’t let their scoring opportunity go to waste as a Dre Brown six-yard touchdown run would give the Illini their first lead of the contest (7-3) early in the second quarter. Yet, Northwestern would respond just as fast with a score of their own as quarterback Andrew Marty would take the ball 12 yards to the house, and the Wildcats would regain the lead (10-7) with 5:20 remaining in the half.
“We only had 13 plays in the first half. That’s never good,” Reams said. “Credit to Northwestern for holding on to the ball. They did what they needed to do.”
Offensive struggles for the Fighting Illini was really the story of the entire game as the team struggled offensively accumulating only 68 rushing yards while giving up 384 rushing yards to their rivals.
“I don’t know,” stated Illini quarterback Matt Robinson on his teams’ offensive struggles. “They we’re doing a good job and we just weren’t doing our best job.”
Fighting Illini head coach Lovie Smith was not pleased with the performance from his sophomore quarterback, who was replacing starting quarterback Brandon Peters (concussion). In addition, felt that he didn’t get the job done in this rivalry game.
“Nobody did their jobs today and Matt was a part of that,” he said.
Robinson finished the day with only 8 completions for 108 yards. His rival, Andrew Marty, finished the day with only 55 passing yards, but 112 rushing yards and 2 rushing touchdowns of his own.
Though Lovie doesn’t like the taste in his mouth after falling to a 6-6 record, he’s staying positive about his team’s invitation to the bowl for the first time in five years.
“I’m disappointed in today’s effort,” he stated. “Too many bad plays. We finished with a bad taste in our mouth, but we got another shot.”
The Fighting Illini is looking forward to the 15 extra practice days as the coaches use this time to recruit as well as get the younger players more touches.
“We will have some recruiting visits,” stated Smith. “People on campus will be out scouting the country trying to fill some roles.”
Northwestern is now finished for the season. But Illinois will now patiently wait to learn its bowl destination on Dec. 8. This will be the team’s first bowl appearance since 2014.