Illinois rips Northwestern, falls short in Big Ten West bid

Nov 26, 2022, 2:07 AM | Updated: 5:37 pm

Illinois offensive lineman Alex Palczewski runs on the field with the Land of Lincoln Trophy after Illinois defeated Northwestern 41-3 in an NCAA college football game in Evanston, Ill., Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) — Safety Sydney Brown returned a touchdown and an interception for scores and Illinois snapped a three-game losing streak with a 41-3 rout of Northwestern on Saturday.

Brown raced 53 yards for a touchdown after Northwestern quarterback Cole Freeman fumbled, then sprinted in for a 39-yard score off an interception, both in the third quarter.

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

Still, the Illini took a huge step forward under second-year coach Bret Bielema and now look forward to playing in a postseason bowl game… somewhere.

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

“This year we were a game shy of making it 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’re at, but more importantly where we’re going.

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

Brown’s twin brother, running back Chase Brown, punched in a 1-yard touchdown and finished with 61 yards on 19 carries. He entered leading the nation in yards rushing 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 off defensive plays, something he hadn’t done since high school in London, Ontario.

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

But he really wanted more yards for his brother.

“I said it to 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 rushing 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 might have put brother Sydney in at tailback. “I just thought it was something I didn’t want to press the envelope on today.”

Tommy DeVito threw for 136 yards on 12-for-18 passing and ran for a touchdown, and Reggie Love III scored on 2-yard touchdown run to get the Illinois offense rolling. 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 winning conference record for the first time since 2007 when they went 6-2.

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

Northwestern seemed be getting on a roll with several drives in the first half, but Freeman, a second-year walk-on, 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 postgame presser, but not because his team narrowly missed the Big Ten title game.

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

Following the win over Northwestern, Bielema revealed that his father-in-law, Greg, had passed away last Tuesday in Florida. The coach traveled to services and didn’t rejoin the Illini until Friday night.

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

Bielema said was close to his father-in-law.

“He and I did fishing trips,” Bielema said. “I even took him to Vegas. Who takes their father-in-law to Vegas, right?”


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

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

Northwestern: Error-prone and injury-raked, Northwestern became decreasingly competitive as the season wore on and the losses grew more lopsided.


Illinois: The Illini expect a bowl invitation. After that, they’ll host Toledo in their 2023 season opener.

Northwestern: Opens it 2023 scheduled on Sept. 2 at Rutgers. It should be the final season for the Wildcats in 97-year-old Ryan Field, slated to be demolished and replaced with a privately funded 35,000-seat stadium.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

Super Bowl teams have good backup QB plans

PHOENIX (AP) — If all goes according to plan Sunday, the only time football fans will see Kansas City’s Chad Henne or Philadelphia’s Gardner Minshew during the Super Bowl will be on the sideline, holding a clipboard, talking on a headset or offering encouragement to teammates. But this is the NFL. Sometimes — actually, lots […]
1 day ago
FILE -Tennessee Titans quarterback Joshua Dobbs (11) passes in the second half of an NFL football g...
Associated Press

NFL’s QB shuffle puts premium on offensive, defensive plans

Tennessee quarterbacks coach Pat O’Hara called six-year journeyman Joshua Dobbs hours after a loss on Christmas Eve, asking him to come to the team headquarters on Christmas Day. Though he had signed just four days earlier, the Titans decided to turn the offense over to Dobbs and coach Mike Vrabel insisted the game plan would […]
1 day ago
FILE - United States' Diana Taurasi, left, and Brittney Griner tale part in a women's basketball pr...
Associated Press

Brittney Griner absent from USA camp, but keeping in touch

Brittney Griner texted her good friend Diana Taurasi on Tuesday morning asking how the USA Basketball training camp was going. Griner was back in Arizona, choosing to skip the camp in Minnesota so she can be with her wife and recover from her time in a Russian jail. She returned to the U.S. in December […]
1 day ago
UConn head coach Geno Auriemma is held back by assistant coach Jamelle Elliott in the second half o...
Associated Press

South Carolina’s Staley defends team after Auriemma comments

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina coach Dawn Staley strongly defended her top-ranked Gamecocks on Tuesday following critical comments by UConn coach Geno Auriemma two days earlier. Auriemma said after the top-ranked Gamecocks’ 81-77 victory that Huskies guard/forward Lou Lopez Senechal had bruises on her body from the game. “It’s just appalling what teams do […]
1 day ago
Italy's Marta Bassino celebrates at the finish area of an alpine ski, women's World Championships s...
Associated Press

Italy’s Bassino beats Shiffrin to gold in super-G at worlds

MERIBEL, France (AP) — Marta Bassino beat Mikaela Shiffrin to win the women’s super-G on Wednesday and give Italy its second gold medal at the Alpine skiing world championships, with her American rival settling for silver. Shiffrin led Bassino by three-tenths of a second at the second split but couldn’t match the Italian’s pace in […]
1 day ago
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes speaks during an NFL football Super Bowl media avail...
Associated Press

Super Bowl has rare matchup of top 2 regular-season teams

This year’s Super Bowl features a rare matchup of the NFL’s top two teams from the regular season. The Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs were the league’s only 14-game winners, marking just the sixth time since the 1970 merger that the squads with sole possession of the two best records in the regular season […]
1 day ago
Illinois rips Northwestern, falls short in Big Ten West bid