Jul 22, 2021; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Northwestern Wildcats safety Brandon Joseph speaks to the media during Big 10 media days at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Goddin-USA TODAY Sports

All-American S Brandon Joseph transfers to Irish

All-American safety Brandon Joseph announced Saturday he is transferring from Northwestern to Notre Dame.

“My time at Northwestern will be with me forever, and Evanston will always be in my heart,” he posted on Twitter, in part. “With that being said, I have decided to commit to the University of Notre Dame!”

Joseph intercepted nine passes in three seasons with the Wildcats.

He started all 12 games for Northwestern (3-9) in 2021 and totaled 80 tackles, three interceptions, one sack and one fumble recovery.

Joseph registered his first career sack and a career-high 12 tackles at then-No. 6 Michigan on Oct. 23.

–Field Level Media

Nov 27, 2021; Champaign, Illinois, USA;  Illinois Fighting Illini quarterback Brandon Peters (18) passes  the ball during the first half against the Northwestern Wildcats  at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Illinois crushes in-state rival Northwestern, 47-14

Isaiah Williams racked up 134 yards from scrimmage, a receiving touchdown and a rushing touchdown, and Illinois cruised to a 47-14 win over visiting Northwestern in a Big Ten matchup Saturday afternoon in Champaign, Ill.

Brandon Peters completed 14 of 23 passes for 242 yards, one touchdown and one interception for Illinois (5-7, 4-5 Big Ten). Chase Brown had 14 carries for 112 yards and a touchdown as the Fighting Illini beat their in-state rival for the first time since 2014.

Evan Hull had 101 rushing yards and a touchdown to lead Northwestern (3-9, 1-8). Ryan Hilinski completed 12 of 23 passes for 123 yards and an interception.

Illinois sprinted to a 37-7 lead at the half.

The Fighting Illini opened the scoring on an 8-yard rushing touchdown by Daniel Barker with 8:26 to go.

Less than three minutes later, Illinois struck again. Peters connected on a 39-yard touchdown pass with Williams, a former signal-caller who switched to wide receiver during the preseason.

Brown punched in a 1-yard rushing touchdown to make it 21-0 with 12:50 left in the second quarter.

Williams scored on another big play — this time a 21-yard run — to increase Illinois’ lead to 28-0 with 11:22 to go in the half. It was his second rushing touchdown of the season to go along with four receiving touchdowns.

Northwestern snapped the shutout to pull within 28-7 with 6:58 to go before halftime. The Wildcats had the ball at the Illinois 1-yard line when Hilinski tucked the ball and pushed across the goal line.

The Fighting Illini finished the half on a trio of field goals by James McCourt from 28, 37 and 25 yards.

McCourt added a 49-yard field goal to make it 40-7 with 8:22 remaining in the third quarter.

Backup Illinois running back Josh McCray took advantage of his fourth quarter playing time with a 6-yard rushing touchdown with 7:59 left in the fourth quarter. That pushed Illinois’ lead to 47-7.

Hull capped the scoring for Northwestern with a 1-yard run with 24 seconds to go.

–Field Level Media

Oct 16, 2021; Evanston, Illinois, USA; Northwestern Wildcats running back Andrew Clair (11) reacts after scoring a touchdown in the second half against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Ryan Field. Mandatory Credit: Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

‘Like our bowl game’: Northwestern seeks 7th straight win vs. Illinois

Northwestern will try to maintain its recent dominance over host Illinois when the two teams meet in their Big Ten season finale Saturday afternoon in Champaign, Ill.

The in-state rivals will compete for the Land of Lincoln Trophy, which is awarded annually to the winner of the game. Northwestern has brought home the trophy every year since 2015 and is looking for its seventh consecutive triumph.

Another victory would provide a positive ending to a sour season for Northwestern (3-8, 1-7 Big Ten), which has lost five games in a row. The Wildcats are coming off a 32-14 loss against Purdue.

“A rival is a rival,” Wildcats running back Andrew Clair said when asked about the upcoming game against Illinois. “You have to approach that game differently no matter where you are (in the standings) or how you’re playing. This is like our bowl game.”

Meanwhile, Illinois (4-7, 3-5) is looking to bounce back from a 33-23 loss against Iowa last week. The Fighting Illini expect to welcome back coach Bret Bielema, who was forced to miss the Iowa game because of COVID-19 health and safety protocols. Bielema says he feels fine.

He described the Northwestern rivalry as “a game of respect” as he prepares to experience it for the first time on the Illinois sideline.

“Offensively, the No. 1 thing is consistency,” Bielema said. “That’s our job as coaches: to hold them to that standard.”

With a win this weekend, Illinois could earn a bowl berth with a 5-7 record. That depends on whether 82 other teams get to six victories — and, if not, whether Illinois would be one of the five-win teams to earn a bowl invite.

Northwestern hopes to spoil any kind of bowl scenario for the Fighting Illini.

“This is rivalry week, so nothing else matters,” Wildcats defensive back Coco Azema said. “The season might not have gone the way we wanted, but it’s rivalry week, so we have to beat Illinois.”

–Field Level Media

Nov 20, 2021; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Northwestern Wildcats wide receiver Malik Washington (6) catches the ball while defended by Purdue Boilermakers cornerback Jamari Brown (7) and safety Chris Jefferson (17) during the second quarter at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports

Aidan O’Connell leads Purdue past Northwestern

Aidan O’Connell passed for 423 yards and three touchdowns and Milton Wright had eight receptions for 213 yards and three scores as visiting Purdue defeated Northwestern 32-14 on Saturday afternoon in Big Ten play at Wrigley Field in Chicago.

Purdue (7-4, 5-3 Big Ten) rebounded from last week’s lopsided loss at Ohio State, earning its third victory in four games while clinching a winning season. The Wildcats (3-8, 1-7) suffered their fifth straight loss.

Wright torched the Northwestern secondary to lead the way, establishing career highs for catches, yards and touchdowns. After entering the day with four touchdown receptions this season, he nearly doubled that total Saturday. David Bell also proved a popular target, catching 12 passes for 101 yards from O’Connell, who completed 29 of 39 of his throws.

Mitchell Fineran kicked field goals of 32, 25, 22 and 38 yards for Purdue, which scored on seven straight drives before ultimately running out the clock on its final possession.

Evan Hull rushed 25 times for 96 yards and a touchdown for the Wildcats, who gained 144 yards on the ground compared to 159 through the air as Andrew Marty and Ryan Hilinski split time under center.

Purdue outgained Northwestern 268-189 in the first half, with the Wildcats amassing nearly half their yards on the final possession before intermission.

Marty connected with Marshall Lang on a 4-yard touchdown pass as time expired to cap a nine-play, 76-yard scoring drive, bringing the hosts within 13-7.

The play came just 1:45 after the Boilermakers grabbed a 13-0 lead on a 53-yard touchdown pass from O’Connell to Wright. To that point, Purdue boasted drives of 65 and 60 yards, but only had a pair of field goals to show for it.

The game was played 11 years to the day following Illinois’ 48-27 rout of Northwestern at Wrigley in the first college football game played at the historic baseball venue since 1938. Northwestern was set to play Wisconsin at the Friendly Confines last season, but the game later shifted to the Wildcats’ Ryan Field amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Ballpark renovations and other maneuvers by NCAA and Big Ten officials assured a more orthodox field setup Saturday. In 2010, the teams used only the west end zone, as officials determined the opposite end zone was too close to the right field wall.

–Field Level Media

Ohio State Buckeyes cornerback Marcus Williamson (5) can't come up with the tackle of Purdue Boilermakers wide receiver David Bell (3) after a catch during the 1st quarter of their NCAA game at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio on November 13, 2021.

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Purdue, Northwestern ready for rare appearance at Wrigley Field

Unable to uphold its reputation as a giant slayer after falling to national-title hopeful Ohio State last week, Purdue will look to rebound Saturday when it faces Northwestern at Wrigley Field in Chicago.

The Boilermakers (6-4, 4-3 Big Ten) boast a pair of victories against top-three foes this season, but they have lost eight of their past 10 to the Wildcats.

“We’ve got an opponent that we haven’t had very good success with here recently, that does a really good job of not beating themselves, playing disciplined football, sound defense,” Purdue coach Jeff Brohm said. “They’re big and physical up front, run the football, control possessions and make the other team beat them.”

The then-No. 23 Wildcats edged unranked Purdue 27-20 on Nov. 14, 2020, the middle of a campaign truncated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Boilermakers wide receiver David Bell had nine receptions for 78 yards, continuing a strong stretch that has seen him lead all wideouts from Power 5 conferences in catches (214), yards (2,766) and yards after the catch (1,042) since 2019.

Bell paced the Boilermakers with 11 receptions for 103 yards during last week’s 59-31 loss at Ohio State, as Aidan O’Connell passed for 390 yards and four scores. Milton Wright had seven catches for a season-best 98 yards and a touchdown.

Purdue was outgained 624-481, unable to keep up with a Buckeyes attack that has helped the team to the No. 4 spot in the College Football Playoff rankings.

Northwestern (3-7, 1-6) enters on a four-game losing streak. The Wildcats have been outscored 126-40 during that span.

The most recent of those defeats was also the most lopsided, as Northwestern absorbed a 35-7 loss at Wisconsin last week. Badgers breakout freshman Braelon Allen ran for 173 yards and three touchdowns.

The Wildcats scored their only touchdown on a 49-yard fumble return by A.J. Hampton Jr. with 11:38 remaining in the game. Northwestern was outgained 497-239, as quarterback Andrew Marty threw three interceptions for the second successive week. Ryan Hilinski relieved Marty in the fourth quarter and also was picked off while completing just 3 of 8 passes for 25 yards.

Northwestern will be back at Wrigley Field for the first time since Nov. 20, 2010, when its game against Illinois marked the first time the renowned baseball stadium hosted college football action since 1938.

“It’s a great honor,” Wildcats coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “Having the privilege to lead a team out into that venue is spectacular. It presents some unique challenges with both teams being on the same sideline, but we’ll make it work.”

Brohm, who played parts of two minor league seasons in the early 1990s as an outfielder, also is looking forward to the opportunity.

“Baseball to me is a game with a lot of history and tradition,” Brohm said. “Obviously, Wrigley Field is as iconic as anywhere. For me, playing at Wrigley is awesome. I know for our players it is, as well. I love baseball. Putting a football field in a baseball stadium is unique. I know our fans will like watching football in that manner.”

The Wildcats were slated to meet Wisconsin at Wrigley last season, but the game ultimately shifted to Evanston, Ill., amid COVID-19 concerns.

–Field Level Media

Nov 6, 2021; Piscataway, New Jersey, USA; Wisconsin Badgers linebacker Jordan Turner (54) celebrates his interception with linebacker Nick Herbig (19) and linebacker Maema Njongmeta (55) during the second half against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at SHI Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Northwestern, No. 18 Wisconsin embrace defensive mentality

Resurgent Wisconsin has climbed back into the thick of the Big Ten West race, but the host Badgers have learned to never overlook Northwestern.

Wisconsin (6-3, 4-2 Big Ten) has won five straight after a 1-3 start with three losses to ranked teams, including a pair of conference defeats. Northwestern (3-6, 1-5) has lost three straight.

The Badgers climbed to No. 18 in the College Football Playoff poll.

Wisconsin is in the four-team logjam atop the West Division with Minnesota, Iowa and Purdue, each at 4-2. Wisconsin has beaten Iowa and Purdue and closes the regular season at Minnesota.

Northwestern and Wisconsin have split their last 16 meetings, although the Badgers have won six of the last seven at Camp Randall Stadium. The Wildcats are 0-3 on the road this season.

“Always a team that you look forward to playing because you know you’ve got to earn everything that you’re going to get,” Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said. “I think that’s why those games have been what they’ve been And, our guys know that. It’s always a physical game and it’s a team that you’ve got to go out and play and execute against.”

Last season, the 19th-ranked Wildcats posted a 17-7 victory at home over No. 10 Wisconsin, forcing five turnovers, including three interceptions and a lost fumble by Badgers quarterback Graham Mertz.

In 2018, Northwestern upended another ranked Wisconsin team 31-17 at Evanston, Ill. Northwestern’s last win at Madison was 13-7 in 2015. Since Chryst took over at Wisconsin in 2015, the teams have split six games and Northwestern is the only West Division team with more than two wins against the Badgers.

Wisconsin, coming off a 52-3 rout of Rutgers to become bowl eligible for the 20th consecutive season, features the No. 1 defense in the country. The Badgers are first in total defense (213.8 yards per game), rushing defense (54.7 ypg) and yards per rush (1.90), and rank fourth in scoring defense (15.4 points per game).

“This defense is No. 1 in the country for a reason,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “They’re veteran, they’re tough, they’re violent, they’re well-coordinated, they fit things right, they don’t mistakes.”

The Badgers have rediscovered their traditional power running game, but could be without leading rusher Chez Mellusi, who suffered a left knee injury in the win over Rutgers. Bruising 238-pound freshman Braelon Allen has come on to rush for more than 100 yards in five straight games since moving into the rotation.

The running game has taken some pressure off Mertz, who completed 11 of 16 for 240 yards with three touchdowns and one interception against Rutgers. Mertz threw six interceptions in the first three games, but just two since.

Northwestern is coming off a 13-7 loss at home to Iowa. Quarterback Andrew Marty made his second career start and first of the season, completing 25 of 44 passes for 270 yards and the Wildcats lone touchdown.

The Wildcats have been plagued by inconsistent quarterback play. Hunter Johnson opened as the starter, followed by Ryan Hilinski, who was replaced two weeks ago by Marty in a 41-14 loss to Minnesota.

Northwestern is averaging 342.2 yards offense per game, including 151 on the ground. Evan Hull is the leading rusher with 791 yards, averaging 6.2 yards per carry with five touchdowns.

The Wildcats give up 414.2 yards per game, including 224.9 on the ground. Northwestern held Iowa to 176 yards through the air, the fourth straight game and seventh time this season holding an opponent to fewer than 200 yards passing.

–Field Level Media

Nov 6, 2021; Evanston, Illinois, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes running back Tyler Goodson (15) and Iowa Hawkeyes quarterback Alex Padilla (8) celebrate after the touchdown in the first half against the Northwestern Wildcats at Ryan Field. Mandatory Credit: Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

Alex Padilla comes on in relief, guides No. 22 Iowa past Northwestern

Alex Padilla relieved a struggling Spencer Petras and directed three scoring drives as No. 22 Iowa held on for a 17-12 victory over Northwestern on Saturday in Evanston, Ill.

The Hawkeyes (7-2, 4-2 Big Ten) halted a two-game skid that followed their 6-0 start and bounced back from getting outscored 51-14 in consecutive losses to Purdue and Wisconsin. They moved into a four-way tie for the lead in the Big Ten West after Minnesota lost to Illinois while Purdue beat Michigan State and Wisconsin routed Rutgers.

Padilla relieved Petras after Iowa did little on its first three drives. Petras completed 2 of 4 passes for four yards before Padilla entered with 2:16 remaining in the first quarter.

In his seventh career appearance and his first extended playing time since joining the Hawkeyes, Padilla was 18 of 28 for 172 yards.

He had two completions to Keagan Johnson for a combined 43 yards that set up Tyler Goodson’s 13-yard TD run with 22 seconds left in the first. Padilla then guided Iowa to a 14-0 lead on his second series, which Arland Bruce IV capped with a 10-yard run on an end-around.

Goodson finished with 141 yards on 21 carries after being held to 27 rushing yards last week against Wisconsin.

Northwestern quarterback Andrew Marty completed 25 of 44 passes for 270 yards in his second career start but was picked off three times and sacked three times as the Wildcats (3-5, 1-4) were held to 14 points or less for the fourth time in five games.

Evan Hull was held to 41 rushing yards but led Northwestern with six catches for 89 yards. He also scored the hosts’ only TD when he caught a 31-yard pass with 2:21 remaining, although Malik Washington’s pass on the two-point conversion was incomplete.

Iowa was forced to punt on its last drive, but defensive back Dane Belton got his second interception of the game with 1:44 remaining.

Before Hull scored, Northwestern settled for two field goals by Charlie Kuhbander despite getting deep into the red zone.

–Field Level Media

Oct 30, 2021; Evanston, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Golden Gophers wide receiver Mike Brown-Stephens (22) runs with the football in the first half against the Northwestern Wildcats at Ryan Field. Mandatory Credit: Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

Mar’Keise Irving helps Minnesota run by Northwestern

Mar’Keise Irving rushed for 110 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries to lead Minnesota to a 41-14 win over Northwestern in a Big Ten contest on Saturday at Evanston, Ill.

With the win, Minnesota (6-2, 4-1 Big Ten) won its fourth straight and took over sole possession of first place in the West division.

Ky Thomas rushed for 106 yards on 21 carries and Tanner Morgan went 12-of-17 passing for 134 yards and one interception for Minnesota.

Andrew Marty went 10-of-16 passing for 93 yards and two touchdowns, and Evan Hull rushed for 107 yards on 15 carries in defeat for Northwestern (3-5, 1-4), which lost its second straight.

Minnesota got off to a strong start, taking a 13-0 lead after the first quarter.

Following a 26-yard field goal by Matt Trickett with 7:55 left in the first, the Golden Gophers took a 10-0 lead 11 seconds later on a 25-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Justin Walley.

Trickett then connected on a 30-yard field goal with 52 seconds left in the first quarter to make it 13-0 Minnesota.

Northwestern made it a 13-7 game with 11:51 left in the second quarter on a 6-yard touchdown pass from Marty to Evan Hull.

But Minnesota regained a 13-point lead at 20-7 with 4:47 remaining in the second quarter on a 3-yard touchdown run by Irving.

After a scoreless third quarter, Minnesota took a 27-7 lead with 14:54 remaining in the game on an 18-yard touchdown run by Morgan.

The Golden Gophers then took a 34-7 lead with 9:33 left on a 41-yard touchdown run by Irving.

Northwestern closed to within 34-14 on a 17-yard touchdown pass from Marty to Berkeley Holman with 6:37 remaining.

Minnesota went ahead 41-14 with 1:56 left on a 24-yard touchdown by Derik LeCaptain.

–Field Level Media

Oct 9, 2021; Piscataway, New Jersey, USA; Rutgers Scarlet Knights head coach Greg Schiano watches game action during the second half against the Michigan State Spartans at SHI Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Rutgers, Northwestern aim to bounce back from lopsided losses

Rutgers and Northwestern sit at the bottom of their divisions in the Big Ten Conference and are coming off humbling performances.

Both teams will seek redemption Saturday afternoon when Rutgers heads to Evanston, Ill., for a meeting with Northwestern.

Rutgers (3-3, 0-3 Big 12) is last in the East Division and has been outscored 103-39 in losses to now.-No. 10 Michigan State, No. 6 Ohio State and No. 8 Michigan.

The Scarlet Knights suffered a 20-13 loss at Michigan on Sept. 25 but followed that with nightmarish showings at home by dropping a 52-13 decision to Ohio State and a 31-13 setback to Michigan State.

Against Michigan State, Rutgers struggled to defend big plays. It allowed a pair of 63-yard touchdown receptions, a 65-yard TD catch and a 94-yard TD run as part of a day when it allowed 251 rushing yards and 591 total yards.

“I look at this game; we gave up big plays,” Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said. “We gave up four big plays. We haven’t done that. We haven’t given up big plays. You give up big plays, it’s going to be hard to do anything, right? You’re behind the 8-ball.”

Rutgers lost while playing shorthanded. Leading receiver Bo Melton did not play due to a shoulder injury, and Aron Cruickshank, whose 244 receiving yards are second on the team, exited in the second half with a shoulder injury.

Northwestern (2-3, 0-2) is last in the West Division and is coming off a bye-week hiatus, leaving plenty of time to stew over a 56-7 loss at Nebraska on Oct. 2.

The Wildcats also struggled to contain the big play and wound up with their second-largest margin of defeat under coach Pat Fitzgerald.

Northwestern has been outscored 94-28 in two conference games. After allowing 427 rushing yards and 28 first downs at Nebraska, the Wildcats are allowing a league-worst 234.2 rushing yards, well ahead of the second-worst average (Illinois at 163.1).

“Number one, we have to look at what we are doing fundamentally. To me, that’s how you win games consistently,” Fitzgerald said after his team allowed 657 total yards against Nebraska. “Block destruction, fitting gaps right, having the right communication to make sure we are all on the same page in the right spot at the right time, and just winning on plays.”

Saturday will be the fifth all-time meeting between the schools and the second in conference play. Rutgers won the first three matchups before Northwestern posted an 18-15 victory in Piscataway N.J., on Oct. 20, 2018.

–Field Level Media

Sep 25, 2021; East Lansing, Michigan, USA; Nebraska Cornhuskers head coach Scott Frost during the fourth quarter against the Michigan State Spartans at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Nebraska offense erupts in rout of Northwestern

Adrian Martinez accounted for four touchdowns, including three rushing scores in the first quarter, as Nebraska blitzed visiting Northwestern 56-7 on Saturday night in Lincoln, Neb.

The Cornhuskers (3-3, 1-2 Big Ten) scored on their first four possessions, building a 21-0 lead less than 11 minutes into the game with Martinez finding paydirt each time. The 56 points were the most ever for Nebraska in a Big Ten game since joining the conference in 2011.

Big plays set up Martinez’s first two scores, as he ran it up from a yard out two plays after throwing a 70-yard pass to Samori Toure. A 64-yard Jaquez Yant run set up Martinez’s second 1-yard score to give Nebraska a 14-0 edge midway through the first quarter. Five minutes later, Martinez scampered 25 yards for his third TD.

The fourth-year junior finished with 259 yards of total offense, throwing for 202 yards and a TD on 11-of-17 passing and adding 57 rushing yards on eight carries.

Nebraska ran for 434 yards-its most in a Big Ten game since 2014-and scored seven times on the ground, with Rahmir Johnson scoring twice and Zavier Betts taking a pitch 83 yards for a TD on the Huskers’ first offensive snap of the second half. Yant led the chart with 127 yards on 13 carries.

A week after rushing for 373 yards against Ohio, Northwestern (2-3, 0-2) had to quickly scrap the ground game after falling behind. That put the burden on quarterback Ryan Hilinski, making his second start for the Wildcats since transferring from South Carolina, and he responded with 238 yards and a TD on 25-of-39 passing.

But Hilinski was also sacked four times and lost a fumble inside the Nebraska 5-yard line midway through the second quarter, squandering a chance to get back within two scores.

Northwestern finished with just 37 rushing yards, its fewest since gaining 24 last season against Wisconsin. Its lone offensive bright spot was receiver Stephon Robinson Jr., who had eight catches for 116 yards, including a 28-yard TD reception.

Nebraska, which is 3-0 at home this season, hosts No. 14 Michigan next Saturday. Northwestern has a bye before returning to action Oct. 16 at home against Rutgers.

–Field Level Media