- Melissa Isaacson, Columnist, ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- A quick look at Illinois’ 48-27 win over Northwestern at Wrigley Field on Saturday.
How it happened: The Illini, behind the record-setting performance of running back Mikel Leshoure, flew out of the gate and barely looked back, running up 559 yards in total offense and toughening up just enough defensively in the third quarter to secure the 48-27 victory. Leshoure’s 17-yard gainer with 7:31 left in regulation broke the Illinois school record of 315 yards and is the most in the NCAA this season, surpassing Nebraska’s Roy Helu Jr.’s 307 against Missouri.
What it means: Illinois’ sixth victory makes them bowl eligible, a virtual guarantee given that the Illini will finish sixth place or better. Northwestern was already going with seven wins.
Stat of the day: Leshoure’s first half performance, 153 yards rushing on 10 carries and two touchdowns, set a frantic pace that initially looked as if Northwestern would never match it. Leshoure went over the 300-yard mark with a 62-yard carry early in the fourth quarter to set up another Illinois touchdown, and finished with a remarkable 330 yards on 33 carries.
Rapid reaction: Illinois' ground game was too much for Northwestern.