Illinois rips Northwest, falls short in Big Ten West bid – NBC Chicago

Safety Sydney Brown returned a touchdown and an interception for the scores and Illinois snapped a three-game losing streak with a 41-3 rout of Northwestern on Saturday.

Brown ran 53 yards for a touchdown after Northwestern quarterback Cole Freeman fumbled, then sprinted for a score of 39 yards on an interception, both in the third quarter.

Illinois (8-4 overall, 5-4 Big Ten) entered with a chance to win Big Ten West and qualify for the conference championship for the first time. However, Purdue beat Indiana 30-16 to win the division title and will face Michigan in Indianapolis next Saturday.

Still, the Illini have taken a huge step forward under second-year coach Bret Bielema and are now looking forward to playing in a postseason game…somewhere.

It just won’t be for the Big Ten crown.

“This year we were one game away from getting to Indy, and a lot of positive steps for our program,” Bielema said, “I couldn’t be more excited about this team and where we are at, but more important still where were going.

“We lost four (conference) games that were one-score games,” Bielema added. “It will motivate and galvanize, whatever you want to say to me and the coaching staff in the offseason as much as anything – those four that got away from us.”

Brown’s twin brother, running back Chase Brown, scored a 1-yard touchdown and finished with 61 yards on 19 carries. He led the nation in rushing yards with 1,582 yards, but fell short of Mikel Leshoure’s single-season school record of 1,697 in 2010.

Sydney Brown was trying to digest scoring twice on defensive plays, something he hadn’t done since high school in London, Ont.

“I love interceptions, that’s always on my mind,” Brown said. “Anyway, I can get into the box (score), it’s fun.”

But he really wanted more yards for his brother.

“I told him on the side, if I get another turnover, I’m going to reverse the field on the 20, 25 just so you can go get the race record. That’s all I wanted for him today.

But Bielema didn’t push Chase Brown, who played with an injured ankle.

“Chase, I just didn’t want to put him back in there at the end,” Bielema said, while joking that he could have put his brother Sydney in line. “I just thought that was something I didn’t want to press on the envelope today.”

Tommy DeVito threw for 136 yards on 12 on 18 passes and rushed for a touchdown, and Reggie Love III scored on a 2-yard touchdown run to roll the Illinois offense. Caleb Griffin kicked a pair of field goals as the Illini finished with eight or more wins for the first time since the 2007 Rose Bowl team finished 9-4.

The Illini have a conference winning record for the first time since 2007 when they went 6-2.

The Illini handed Northwestern its 11th straight loss after a season-opening win over Nebraska in Dublin, Ireland. The Wildcats, 1-8 in the Big Ten, only managed the Adam Stage field goal.

Northwestern seemed on a roll with several drives in the first half, but Freeman, a sophomore, threw three of his four interceptions in his second career start.

Freeman was replaced by Jack Lausch after his fourth interception.


Bielema fought back tears in the post-match presser, but not because his side narrowly missed out on the Big Ten title game.

Bielema’s mother, Marilyn, died Thursday, Nov. 17, but he was sidelined two days later against Michigan.

After the win over Northwestern, Bielema revealed that her stepfather, Greg, passed away last Tuesday in Florida. The coach went to the services and did not join the Illini until Friday evening.

“I never saw my team again until late last night,” Bielema said. “I knew just watching them last night and their intensity today that they were going to play very well.”

Bielema said she is close to her stepfather.

“He and I went on fishing trips,” Bielema said. “I even took him to Vegas. Who’s taking his stepdad to Vegas, right?”


Illinois: The Illini continue to progress under Bielema, improving to 5-7 overall and 4-5 in conference in 2021.

Illinois peaked at 7-1, 4-1 Big Ten and No. 14 in the national championship after a 26-9 win over Nebraska on Oct. 29.

Northwestern: Error-prone and injury-prone, Northwestern became less and less competitive as the season progressed and losses became more and more lopsided.


Illinois: The Illini are expecting a bowl invite. After that, they will host Toledo in their 2023 season opener.

Northwestern: Opening in 2023 scheduled for September 2 at Rutgers. This is set to be the Wildcats’ final season at 97-year-old Ryan Field, which is set to be demolished and replaced with a privately funded 35,000-seater stadium.

NBC Chicago

Not all news on the site expresses the point of view of the site, but we transmit this news automatically and translate it through programmatic technology on the site and not from a human editor.
Back to top button