Nov 18, 2023; Evanston, Illinois, USA;  Purdue Boilermakers tight end Garrett Miller (88) is tripped up by Northwestern Wildcats defensive back Jaheem Joseph (3) after a pass reception in the second quarter at Ryan Field. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

Northwestern takes down Purdue, becomes bowl eligible

Cam Porter rushed for two touchdowns as Northwestern never trailed and became bowl-eligible with a 23-15 victory over Purdue on Saturday at Evanston, Ill.

The Wildcats (6-5, 4-4 Big Ten) won consecutive games for the first time this season and clinched their bowl appearance two days after removing the interim tag from coach David Braun.

Porter rushed for two TDs for the second time in his career and first instance since Dec. 12, 2020 against Illinois. He easily scored a 7-yard TD a little less three minutes in and then had a 34-yard TD run early in the fourth that helped Northwestern clinch the win.

Porter finished with a season-best 95 yards on 17 carries as Northwestern won despite being outgained 439-329 and holding possession for 25:17 to 34:43 for Purdue.

Northwestern’s Ben Bryant completed 13 of 24 passes for 230 yards in his second game back from an upper-body injury. He threw his only TD to Cam Johnson, whose 52-yard reception helped the Wildcats start to pull away at 16-7 in the third quarter.

Northwestern also clinched their bowl berth on the strength of a defense that dominated at times. The Wildcats forced four turnovers, including an interception by Xander Mueller with 21 seconds left to protect an eight-point lead as Purdue moved past midfield.

Northwestern also got five of its six sacks in the first half and registered eight tackles for losses.

Purdue quarterback Hudson Card was a late scratch due to an injury and Ryan Browne and Bennett Meredith split time for the Boilermakers (3-8, 2-6). Browne took the majority of the snaps and was 12 of 16 for 104 yards while also handing off frequently to Tyrone Tracy Jr., who rushed for 160 yards.

Northwestern scored on the fourth play of its opening drive when Porter ran in untouched. After missing the two-point conversion, Northwestern’s defense stopped Purdue four times at the goal line before forcing two turnovers late in the first half.

With 9:05 left in the third, Northwestern’s Grayson Metz recovered a muffed punt at the Purdue 21 and the Wildcats capitalized by getting a 30-yard field goal from Jack Olsen with 7:38 left.

Purdue scored when Tracy powered his way into the end zone with 3:59 left but nearly two minutes later Johnson outraced Cam Allen and linebacker Kydran Jenkins for a 16-7 lead and Porter got his second TD with 12:08 to go.

Devin Mockobee’s 2-yard TD and subsequent two-point conversion got Purdue within 23-15 with 3:06 remaining and Purdue got to the Northwestern 34 before Browne was intercepted for the second time.

–Field Level Media

Oct 28, 2023; Madison, Wisconsin, USA;  Wisconsin Badgers quarterback Braedyn Locke (18) throws a pass during the fourth quarter against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Wisconsin hoping offense wakes up vs. Northwestern

Wisconsin will try to regain its offensive stride against visiting Northwestern on Saturday as the Badgers look to remain in contention in the Big Ten West.

The Badgers (5-4, 3-3) will return to Madison after a 20-14 setback last Saturday at Indiana, their third loss in four games. Northwestern (4-5, 2-4) lost to Iowa 10-7 at Wrigley Field the same day on a field goal with 14 seconds left.

Wisconsin is tied with Nebraska and Minnesota, its final two opponents, a game behind first-place Iowa in the West. In their three recent losses, the Badgers have just 30 points, including only 10 in the first half.

Wisconsin quarterback Tanner Mordecai has missed the last three games after breaking his throwing hand. Senior running back Chez Mellusi suffered a season-ending broken leg in the fourth game. And against Indiana, leading rusher Braelon Allen (ankle) and senior wide receiver Chimere Dike (leg) were out.

Wisconsin coach Luke Fickell was not sure Monday of the status of Allen and Dike, although both were listed first on this week’s depth chart.

“It’s hard to tell, the pace you are at on a Sunday — what does that translate to a Tuesday, Wednesday, and even push it through to a Saturday,” Fickell said. “So I wish I knew more.”

Redshirt freshman Braedyn Locke completed 21 of 41 passes for 243 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions against Indiana in his third start.

Northwestern quarterback Ben Bryant has missed the last three games with an upper-body injury. Brendan Sullivan has completed 40 of 65 passes for 522 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions over the last three games, but he threw for just 81 yards against Iowa.

Northwestern interim coach David Braun said Monday that Bryant continues to improve but remains uncertain for Saturday.

“Each day we’ll know more, but I’m not willing to sit up here and say he’s not going to be available,” Braun said. “With the progression that he’s shown over the last couple of weeks, I think there’s a possibility that he’s ready to go.”

Wisconsin has won five of the last seven meetings with Northwestern, including 42-7 last season.

–Field Level Media

Oct 21, 2023; Lincoln, Nebraska, USA; Northwestern Wildcats quarterback Brendan Sullivan (6) looks for a pass against the Nebraska Cornhuskers during the fourth quarter at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa, Northwestern try to get offenses going at Wrigley Field

Iowa’s game at Northwestern on Saturday at Chicago’s Wrigley Field suddenly has more intrigue in the Big Ten West race than perhaps originally expected.

The Hawkeyes (6-2, 3-2) were off last week and have had a couple of weeks to stew over their second loss of the season, a 12-10 defeat at home to Minnesota on Oct. 21.

Iowa amassed just 127 yards of total offense and 11 yards rushing, although offensive ineptitude is nothing new for a team that has just 71 points in its last five games.

Unlike in other games, the Hawkeyes’ defense and special teams couldn’t overcome the offensive struggles against Minnesota, and Iowa now finds itself in a four-way tie atop the West.

On Monday, it was announced that maligned offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz, son of head coach Kirk Ferentz, would not return in 2024, although he will finish the 2023 season.

Kirk Ferentz didn’t delve much into that situation at his weekly press conference, saying his focus is on the final four games of the regular season.

“They are showing improvement week to week,” he said of Northwestern. “I think they are gaining momentum and playing with good confidence.”

Northwestern (4-4, 2-3) trails the four-team pack by one game in the West. The Wildcats are coming off a 33-27 win at home last Saturday against Maryland thanks in large part to quarterback Brendan Sullivan.

Making just his third start, Sullivan passed for 265 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 56 yards to lead the Wildcats.

Northwestern interim coach David Braun said Sullivan will have to be extra careful to avoid turnovers against a stout Iowa defense.

“We’ll all be challenged in so many ways,” Braun said. “This defense is a model for consistency. It’s impressive.”

The over/under for the game opened at 29.5, which is the lowest in college football history.

–Field Level Media

Oct 28, 2023; Evanston, Illinois, USA; Northwestern Wildcats quarterback Brendan Sullivan (6) looks to pass against the Maryland Terrapins during the first half at Ryan Field. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Brendan Sullivan, Northwestern hold off Maryland

Brendan Sullivan threw for a career-high 265 yards including two touchdowns to propel Northwestern to a 33-27 Big Ten victory over Maryland on Saturday in Evanston, Ill.

Sullivan completed 16 of 23 passes without an interception as Northwestern (4-4, 2-3 Big Ten) improved to 2-1 with the junior as the starting quarterback. Sullivan also carried 14 times for 56 yards to lead the Wildcats in rushing.

Cam Porter added two touchdowns and kicker Jack Olsen had a perfect afternoon, hitting all four of his field-goal attempts and going 3-for-3 on extra points.

It was the third straight loss for Maryland (5-3, 2-3), which led 14-7 in the first quarter before Northwestern scored the next 17 points to take a lead it would not relinquish.

The Terps rallied late behind Taulia Tagovailoa, who threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to Jeshaun Jones to cut the Wildcats’ lead to 33-27 with 3:42 left.

But with Maryland threatening again, Coco Azema made a sliding interception to wrap up the win with 1:25 left.

Tagovailoa finished with 30 completions in 47 attempts for 274 yards and three touchdowns, but his interception and a first-half fumble were costly.

The Terps outgained the Wildcats 391-364 and had more first downs, 25-19. But the Wildcats’ defense came up with several clutch plays.

Aidan Hubbard registered three of the Wildcats’ six sacks. In the fourth quarter, R.J. Pearson had a sack which ended a Maryland drive that had reached midfield.

On fourth-and-goal at the Northwestern 1 in the second quarter, Xander Mueller extinguished a Maryland threat when he tipped a Tagovailoa pass that fluttered incomplete.

After receiving the opening kickoff, Maryland needed just five plays to drive 66 yards for a touchdown, an 8-yard scoring pass from Tagovailoa to Tai Felton.

But on the Terps’ next possession, as he attempted to pass, Tagovailoa lost the ball and Bryce Gallagher recovered the fumble at the Maryland 18. Three plays later, Porter scored on a 1-yard plunge to tie it up.

Maryland went back up, 14-7, as Roman Hemby caught a screen pass and ran 24 yards for a touchdown.

Northwestern followed with a 17-point run as Sullivan threw two touchdown passes.

Azema also had a 61-yard kickoff return to open the second half, which set up a field goal.

Joseph Himon II turned a short pass into a 53-yard gain in the fourth quarter which also set up a field goal. A.J. Henning’s diving 34-yard reception set up another 3-pointer in the period.

–Field Level Media

Oct 7, 2023; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Maryland Terrapins quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa (3) celebrates a touchdown during the third quarter against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Maryland, Northwestern look to stay afloat in Big Ten

Maryland and Northwestern are fighting to keep pace in the Big Ten entering Saturday’s contest in Evanston, Ill.

Coach Michael Locksley said before the season that his Terrapins (5-2, 2-2) were ready to compete for Big Ten championships, and Maryland initially validated his statement by starting 5-0, including winning its first two conference games.

However, back-to-back losses have steepened the Terrapins’ climb toward their first-ever Big Ten championship appearance.

The latest defeat was particularly alarming as Maryland allowed Illinois, a 13-1/2 point underdog, to steal a 27-24 win in College Park on Oct. 14. The Terrapins had a bye last week.

Locksley knows the season isn’t lost, but he acknowledges Maryland’s margin for error has narrowed considerably.

“I still have a lot of faith in this team,” he said. “All of our goals are still ahead of us, but we’ve made it a little more difficult on ourselves and we’ve got to do the work to do what’s necessary to get us going back in the right direction.”

The Terrapins, who trail four other teams in the Big Ten East entering this weekend, will need quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa to continue his impressive campaign to keep Maryland in the mix. He ranks second in the conference in completion percentage, passing yards and passing touchdowns.

Northwestern (3-4, 1-3) has alternated wins and losses all season and is coming off a 17-9 setback last Saturday at Nebraska.

The Wildcats drove inside the Cornhuskers’ 20 three times but never found the end zone, instead settling for three Jack Olsen field goals. Those missed opportunities proved to be too much to overcome.

“We’re going to continue to harp on it,” interim coach David Braun said of the Wildcats’ need to finish drives. “… When we get into the red zone … we gotta find ways to turn that into seven points.”

Northwestern has played its last two games without quarterback Ben Bryant, who suffered an upper-body injury in the Wildcats’ 41-13 loss to then-No. 6 Penn State on Sept. 30. Braun said Monday that he was unsure if Bryant will return for Saturday’s game against the Terps.

Brendan Sullivan has thrown for 307 yards and two touchdowns with one interception in his two starts in Bryant’s absence.

–Field Level Media

Penn State linebackers Kobe King (41) and Curtis Jacobs (23) get pumped up before facing off against Delaware Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023, in State College, Pa.

No. 6 Penn State brings dominant defense to Northwestern

Penn State players cling to a theory about turnovers.

So far, it has served the No. 6 Nittany Lions remarkably well.

Penn State (4-0, 2-0 Big Ten) enters Saturday’s visit to conference rival Northwestern as the lone Football Bowl Subdivision program that hasn’t committed a giveaway this season.

“If you drop the ball, you’re cheating everybody’s dreams,” Nittany Lions fullback Kaytron Allen said. “We’re chasing dreams. This is our dream. You can’t lose it.”

While the Nittany Lions haven’t lost a game this season thanks in great part to their ball security, a tough defense also has propelled their unbeaten start.

In Penn State’s most recent game, a 31-0 shutout of visiting Iowa, the defense held the Hawkeyes to 76 total yards — the program’s stingiest effort against a Big Ten foe. The Nittany Lions forced four fumbles a week after notching five takeaways in their conference opener at Illinois, a 30-13 victory.

It all adds up to a unit that leads the nation in multiple defensive categories, including total defense (219.5 yards per game), pass defense (138 yards per game), first downs allowed (46) and turnover margin (plus-11).

“Stats sometimes tell a story and kind of reinforce some things that you’re doing,” Nittany Lions coach James Franklin said.

To Northwestern counterpart David Braun, Penn State’s defensive objectives are clear.

“They’re aggressive. They’re balanced. You can’t find a weakness on that defense,” said Braun, the Wildcats’ interim coach. “Really well-coached. Willing to play tight coverage. Mix in some different looks. Put stress on you on first and second down.”

The Wildcats (2-2, 1-1) are coming off a 37-34 overtime victory at home against Minnesota last Saturday.

After falling behind 31-10 through three quarters, Northwestern rallied to tie the game at 31 on Ben Bryant’s 11-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Henning with two seconds remaining in regulation. The game-winner was a 25-yard TD pass from Bryant to Charlie Mangieri in OT.

While Northwestern welcomed the victory, to be sure, Braun acknowledged he hopes the players harness a better sense of urgency against the Nittany Lions and going forward this season.

“On both sides of the football, we need to find some of that mojo in the first quarter to get going,” Braun said. “I think that only helps an offense turn positive plays into positive drives and points.”

Wildcats wideout Bryce Kirtz earned Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week plaudits with his standout effort against the Golden Gophers. Kirtz had 10 receptions for 215 yards and two touchdowns — all career bests — while posting the fourth-highest single-game receiving yardage total in school history.

Saturday will offer a matchup of quarterbacks aiming to build off big games. Bryant was 33-of-49 passing for 396 yards and four TDs with no interceptions.

While his yardage total of 166 wasn’t as prolific, Penn State’s Drew Allar also threw for four scores, including a pair to Tyler Warren.

Meanwhile, the Nittany Lions will aim to keep rolling behind their defense. Linebacker Curtis Jacobs helped pace the effort against Iowa with two fumble recoveries.

Penn State has won eight of the last 10 meetings with Northwestern and boasts a 15-5 edge in the all-time series.

–Field Level Media

Sep 9, 2023; Durham, North Carolina, USA;  Duke Blue Devils quarterback Riley Leonard (13) gets ready to hand the ball off against the Lafayette Leopards during the first half at Wallace Wade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Familiarity frames fight between No. 21 Duke, Northwestern

Northwestern and No. 21 Duke have reached the third week of the season having already captured rewarding experiences.

The Wildcats and Blue Devils look for more when they meet in a nonconference game Saturday at Durham, N.C.

Duke (2-0) has recorded convincing victories over Clemson and Lafayette.

Northwestern (1-1) will be a different type of opponent.

“I think they know the scheme that they’re playing very well, and they play it very fast,” Duke coach Mike Elko said. “I think they’re a big, big challenge for us.”

Interim coach David Braun and his Northwestern team had something to celebrate after a chaotic summer. The Wildcats thumped UTEP 38-7 last week in their home opener.

“A couple of corrections from UTEP and moving on to Duke — a really, really well-coaching football team that is playing really good football right now, playing with a lot of confidence,” Braun said. “We’re looking forward to getting down to Durham and playing our best football.”

Duke quarterback Riley Leonard completed all 12 of his throws last week against Lafayette. The Blue Devils went 20-for-21 in the air for a program-record 95.2-percent complete rate, with the lone incompletion an intentional spike late in the first half to stop the clock.

“With high-end quarterback play (that they’ve shown), we’ve got a big challenge ahead of us,” Braun said.

Northwestern has been rallying to overcome odds since a hazing scandal rocked the program and led to a coaching change. So with the Wildcats facing a ranked team on the road, this might fit well.

“I think this group is at its best as underdogs,” Braun said. “We talked about this year that there’s going to be ups and downs. I think you see a group that is very hungry.”

Northwestern quarterback Ben Bryant completed 11 of 17 passes without an interception in the UTEP game after getting picked off twice at Rutgers.

So, the Wildcats could be rounding into form.

“A team that’s got a tremendous amount of pride and have had some challenging things happen over there this summer, but I’m sure they have rallied and regrouped and certainly finished the game against UTEP the way they wanted to,” Elko said. “I think they’re starting to hit their stride now.”

Three Duke assistant coaches are former staff members at Northwestern.

“There is a little bit of a chess match that’s going on,” Braun said. “It’s impressive, they’ve built a good foundation right now. They’re climbing right now.”

Duke’s 11-4 record under Elko gives the second-year coach the best 15-game record in program history.

The Blue Devils are 18-2 in their last 20 non-conference home games, with one of the setbacks to Northwestern in 2015.

Duke is in its third home game after playing twice last week in a six-night stretch. Northwestern, which opened the season with a loss at Rutgers, is trying for its first road victory since 2020 at Purdue. The Wildcats hold a 12-game losing streak in true road games.

Duke carries a 12-10 series lead, winning the past four matchups with the Wildcats. That includes a 31-23 decision last year at Evanston, Ill.

–Field Level Media

Sep 9, 2023; Evanston, Illinois, USA;  Northwestern Wildcats quarterback Ben Bryant (2) passes in the first half against the University of Texas El Paso Miners at Ryan Field. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

Northwestern evens record with stout win over UTEP

Quarterback Ben Bryant passed for one touchdown and rushed for another, and Northwestern pulled away for a 38-7 win over UTEP on Saturday afternoon in Evanston, Ill.

Joseph Himon II added an 85-yard touchdown catch for Northwestern (1-1), which earned its first win under interim coach David Braun. Jack Lausch and A.J. Henning scored one touchdown apiece on the ground.

Gavin Hardison completed 17 of 25 passes for 192 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions for UTEP (1-2). Zach Fryar caught the Miners’ lone touchdown pass.

Northwestern ended the game with 38 unanswered points after UTEP scored first.

Cam Porter led the Wildcats with 90 rushing yards on 17 carries. Bryant completed 11 of 17 passes for 116 yards and a touchdown before he left due to injury and was replaced by Ryan Hilinski, who completed his only pass of the game for Himon’s 85-yard touchdown.

UTEP opened the scoring with 11:08 remaining in the first quarter. Hardison zipped a high pass to Fryar, who leaped to haul in a 4-yard touchdown.

Northwestern evened the score at 7-7 on the next possession. Lausch took the snap from the shotgun formation and scrambled to his right for a 6-yard touchdown.

The score remained tied at halftime before Northwestern grabbed its first lead early in the third quarter. Thomas Gordon caught a pass inside the 10-yard line, bounced off a tackle and dived into the end zone for an 18-yard scoring pass.

Northwestern’s defense set up another touchdown less than three minutes later. Linebacker Xander Mueller returned an interception to the UTEP 3-yard line, and Bryant converted three plays later with a 1-yard rushing score to make it 21-7.

The Wildcats continued to roll late in the third quarter after Hilinski took over for Bryant, who left with what the team described as an upper-body injury. Hilinski faced pressure on his third play and flipped a quick pass to Himon, who found an opening and won a footrace for an 85-yard score.

Henning made it 35-7 in favor of Northwestern with a 4-yard rushing touchdown with 7:07 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Jack Olsen capped the scoring with a 40-yard field goal with 3:53 to play.

–Field Level Media

Nov 19, 2022; West Lafayette, Indiana, USA;  Northwestern Wildcats head coach Pat Fitzgerald walks the sidelines during the second quarter against the Purdue Boilermakers at Ross-Ade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald suspended in hazing inquiry

Northwestern football coach Pat Fitzgerald received a two-week suspension without pay following an independent investigation into allegations of hazing within the program, the university announced Friday.

The suspension begins Friday for the 48-year-old Fitzgerald, who has been the head coach of the Big Ten program since 2006. The Wildcats will begin preseason practices in early August.

The university received a complaint in late November alleging instances of hazing that occurred inside the team’s locker room and at Kenosha, Wis. Investigators spoke with more than 50 people currently or previously affiliated with the program and reviewed emails and player survey data dating back to 2014, per the executive summary of the probe.

“The investigation team determined that the complainant’s claims were largely supported by the evidence gathered during the investigation, including separate and consistent first-person accounts from current and former players,” per the summary.

“While the investigation did not uncover evidence pointing to specific misconduct by any individual football player or coach, participation in or knowledge of the hazing activities was widespread across football players.”

“I was very disappointed when I heard about the allegations of hazing on our football team,” Fitzgerald said. “Although I was not aware of the alleged incidents, I have spoken to University officials, and they informed me of a two-week suspension, effective immediately.

“Northwestern football prides itself on producing not just athletes, but fine young men with character befitting the program and our University. We hold our student-athletes and our program to the highest standards; we will continue to work to exceed those standards moving forward.”

Northwestern president Michael Schill provided the following statement:

“Hazing in any form is unacceptable and goes against our core values at Northwestern, where we strive to make the University a safe and welcoming environment for all of our students. Our athletics programs are held to the highest standards, and in this case, we failed to meet them. I expect that today’s actions will prevent this from ever happening again.”

In addition to Fitzgerald’s suspension, Northwestern also announced the following changes:

–Football practices at “Camp Kenosha” will be permanently discontinued.

–The University will require monitoring of the locker room by someone who doesn’t report to the football coaching staff.

–The University will create an online reporting tool specifically for student athletes to anonymously report incidents of potential hazing or hazing-related concerns.

–The University will require annual mandatory anti-hazing training for all coaches, staff members and athletes, with an emphasis on reporting options, the duties to report and discipline for future violations.

The Wildcats are coming off a 1-11 record in 2022. They will open the 2023 season at Rutgers on Sept. 3.

Fitzgerald is 110-101 with 10 bowl appearances (5-5 record) in 17 seasons as the head coach at his alma mater.

–Field Level Media

Nov 26, 2022; Evanston, Illinois, USA; Northwestern Wildcats quarterback Cole Freeman (7) looks to pass against the Illinois Fighting Illini during the first half at Ryan Field. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Sydney Brown notches two defensive TDs as Illinois whips Northwestern

Safety Sydney Brown became the first FBS player this season to return an interception and a fumble for touchdowns in the same game to highlight Illinois’ 41-3 Big Ten victory over Northwestern on Saturday afternoon in Evanston, Illinois.

Brown, the twin brother of national rushing leader Chase Brown, scored on a 53-yard fumble return and a 39-yard interception in the third quarter as Illinois (8-4, 5-4 Big Ten) forced six turnovers to retain the Land of Lincoln Trophy.

The Illini did their part to earn their first spot in the Big Ten championship game, but Purdue (8-4, 6-3) rallied to win at Indiana to claim the West Division title. Nonetheless, Illinois finished with its best regular-season record since Ron Zook’s 2007 team earned a Rose Bowl berth with a 9-3 mark.

Northwestern (1-11, 1-8) dropped its 11th game in a row as sophomore walk-on quarterback Cole Freeman, making his second start, completed 12 of 22 passes for 93 yards and four interceptions before being replaced late in the third quarter by freshman Jack Lausch.

Chase Brown, who entered the game as the nation’s rushing leader with 1,582 yards, limped off midway through the first quarter with a leg injury. He returned periodically and finished with a season-low 61 yards and one touchdown on 19 carries.

After Brown’s injury, Reggie Love III (11 rushes, 85 yards) took over and rushed for 43 of the 57 yards remaining on the drive — capping the march with a 2-yard blast off the right side for a 7-0 Illinois lead with 5:22 left in the first.

Northwestern drove into Illinois territory on all three of its second-quarter possessions, but all three ended in interceptions. All-America cornerback candidate Devon Witherspoon picked off two while Sydney Brown earned his first of two interceptions.

Illinois built a 17-0 lead by halftime on Caleb Griffin’s 23-yard field goal and quarterback Tommy DeVito’s 1-yard sneak.

The offensive pattern changed for Northwestern in the second half, but only slightly. The Wildcats rushed to Illinois’ 37-yard line on their second drive of the third quarter, but then Freeman and running back Andrew Clair lost the ball at the mesh point. Sydney Brown picked up the fumble and cruised 53 yards for a score and a 27-0 lead with 7:23 left in the third.

Brown returned to the end zone just three-plus minutes later as he picked off a Freeman pass and zipped 39 yards down the left sideline to give Illinois a 34-0 lead with 4:06 to go in the third.

Illinois’ bid for its first Big Ten shutout since Oct. 14, 2000 ended when Alex Stage booted a 28-yard field goal with 12:17 to play.

–Field Level Media