Nov. 14, 2009
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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Northwestern scored touchdowns in each of the final three quarters and got an interception from Sherrick McManis late in the fourth quarter to seal a 21-16 victory over Illinois Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
The win for the Wildcats (7-4, 4-3) guarantees back-to-back winning seasons and marks the 11th-straight time the team with the better record entering the Northwestern-Illinois game has come out on top. NU also claimed the first Land of Lincoln Trophy, the third trophy the two schools have played for since 1945.
Both teams traded wide left field goal attempts in the first quarter, with Illinois' Matt Elder missing from 23 yards and Northwestern's Stefan Demos misfiring from 47 and 50 yards. Both of Demos' kicks had the distance but snuck by the left upright. Illinois' backup place-kicker, Derek Dimke, broke the drought with a 30-yard make early in the second quarter to give the Illini the first lead in the game.
Late in the second quarter, Northwestern turned the ball over on downs near midfield. Linebacker Nate Williams then picked off an Illinois pass on the very next play, leading to a 5-play, 54-yard drive capped by a Zeke Markshausen 28-yard touchdown reception from Mike Kafka to put the Wildcats on top, 7-3, going into the half.
Northwestern took its second drive of the second half 99 yards on seven plays with Kafka connecting on strikes of 52 yards to Andrew Brewer and 20 to Markshausen. Kafka then crossed the goal line on a 1-yard sneak to push the Wildcats' advantage to 14-3.
After the defense forced Illinois' sixth punt of the game, Kafka led another scoring drive, this one finished early in the fourth quarter by an Arby Fields' 1-yard score. The Illini were able to find the end zone on their ensuing possession, but a two-point conversion attempt failed to leave NU's lead at 21-9 with 10:11 to play.
Illinois (3-7, 2-6) further cut into the lead with a touchdown with 4:06 to play, then got the ball back with 1:14 left at its own 21-yard line. On fourth-and-1 three plays later, McManis made his pick to cement the victory.
Kafka notched his fourth 300-yard passing game of the season, finishing 23-of-37 for 305 passing yards in the game. Markshausen recorded triple-digit receiving yards for the second time this year, hauling in six catches for 104 yards to lead a nine-Wildcat corps with at least one catch in the game. Fields led NU's rushing attack with 50 yards on nine carries and a score.
Quentin Davie had eight tackles to lead the defense, while Brian Peters and Williams both forced fumbles in the game.