Nov. 24, 2012
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Site: Evanston, Ill. (Ryan Field)
Score: Northwestern 50, Illinois 14
Records: NU (9-3, 5-3 Big Ten), Illinois (2-10, 0-8 Big Ten)
Next NU Event: Bowl Game Destination, date and ticket information TBA
EVANSTON, Ill. -- Northwestern built a 27-14 halftime lead and poured it on in the second half, posting a 50-14 victory over rival Illinois on Senior Day at Ryan Field Saturday. Junior QB Kain Colter directed the NU offense to the tune of 88 yards and one TD on the ground and a career-best three passing touchdowns, helping the Wildcats reclaim the Land of Lincoln Trophy in the process.
Junior tailback Venric Mark capped a tremendous regular season with 127 rushing yards and one score, giving him his eighth 100-yard rushing game of the year. Mark enters postseason play with 1,310 rushing yards -- the seventh-best single-season total in school history -- and 2,048 all-purpose yards, second-most ever by a Wildcat in a single season.
Eight different Wildcats recorded points in the game, including six different touchdown scorers and a late safety from Max Chapman that accounted for the final 50-14 tally.
Included in that group of scorers was place-kicker Jeff Budzien, who connected from 44 and 36 yards on his two attempts to improve to 17-of-18 on the year, including 6-of-7 on kicks from 40 yards or longer.
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With the win, Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald matched Lynn "Pappy" Waldorf's (1935-46) school record for most career coaching wins with 49. Fitzgerald is 49-39 in his career at the helm of NU.
Illinois mounted an 11-play drive on the opening possession of the ball game, with running back Donovonn Young punching it across the goal line with a 15-yard rush to put the Illini in front, 7-0.
Northwestern's Tony Jones sparked the Wildcats on their first touch of the ball with a 51-yard kickoff return following the Illinois touchdown. The 'Cats got on the board with a 44-yard field goal by Budzien.
NU's special teams led to the Wildcats' next score as well when, on the ensuing kickoff, C.J. Bryant forced Illinois' Justin Green to fumble on his return. Redshirt freshman Cameron Dickerson fell on it for NU's 16th fumble recovery of the year, and Colter needed just two rushing plays to cover the 19 yards for Northwestern's first touchdown of the afternoon.
Illinois momentarily stunted Northwestern's momentum with an interception near midfield, but the Wildcats stole it right back with David Nwabuisi's fourth interception of his career and second in as many weeks. His 43-yard INT return put Northwestern on the 9-yard line, and two plays later Colter hit Tony Jones in the back of the end zone for a 6-yard TD and a 17-7 Wildcats lead.
Reilly O'Toole then engineered a scoring drive for Illinois, capping the series with a 12-yard rush up the middle to pull his team within three.
The offenses continued to rule the day as Northwestern assembled a 79-yard drive to re-establish a 10-point lead. Mark accounted for 55 of those yards on the ground and eventually pushed the pile from three yards out for his 11th rushing TD of the season.
A steady dose of the Northwestern ground attack allowed the Wildcats to move the ball and work the clock through the second quarter, with a 28-yard Colter rush on third-and-14 landing the ball at the 9-yard line of Illinois. Following a penalty against the 'Cats, Budzien connected on his second field goal of the day, this time from 36 yards, to put NU ahead 27-14 at the halftime intermission.
The Wildcat kept the pedal to the metal in the second half, taking the opening kick of the second half and marching 75 yards on 11 plays to extend its lead to 34-14. The scoring strike came with 10:20 to go in the third quarter when Colter executed a perfectly drawn-up misdirection screen play to senior Tyris Jones from 15 yards out.
The NU defense kept Illinois at bay with back-to-back interceptions, the first of which came courtesy of sophomore Ibraheim Campbell, who returned it 40 yards to the Illinois 24. On the next play, NU dug into its playbook and drew up a surprise pass by Colter to offensive tackle Paul Jorgensen, who hauled in the toss down the seam and opened the floodgates on their rivals.
Not long after, Illinois' Nathan Scheelhaase was intercepted by redshirt freshman Nick VanHoose, who was making his first game back after missing three straight due to injury. Northwestern pounded it on the ground to cover the 50 yards with Mike Trumpy accounting for the 3-yard TD play to put the game away, 48-14.
In all, the Wildcats rushed the ball 67 times -- most by a Big Ten team this season -- and ran 83 plays while Illinois ran just 45 for the afternoon. Defensively, linebacker Chi Chi Ariguzo posted a team-high 11 tackles, including 10 solo stops.
Be sure to visit NUsports.com in the coming weeks to stay up to date on information related to Northwestern Football's 2012 bowl destination and the best way for you to secure seats to cheer on the 'Cats in the postseason.
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