Rapid Reaction: Illinois 38, Northwestern 35
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Here’s a quick look at No. 24 Illinois’ 38-35 win over Northwestern on Saturday.
How it happened: Trailing 35-31, Illinois put together a 69-yard drive in the final minute that ended with quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase scoring from one yard out with 13 seconds remaining to give the Illini their fifth win of the season. Scheelhaase and Illinois wide receiver A.J. Jenkins had record days. Scheelhaase threw for a career-high 391 yards and three touchdowns. Jenkins had 12 receptions and 268 yards and three touchdowns. Jenkins’ performance broke the school’s single-game receiving record, which was previously set by David Williams’ 208-yard game against Northwestern in 1984. Dan Persa, who missed the first three games, looked like his old self at times Saturday going 11-of-15 passing for 137 yards and four touchdown before leaving the game with an apparent injury. (Coach Pat Fitzgerald said he was held out for precautionary reasons.) Behind Persa, Northwestern took a 28-10 lead in the third quarter. Illinois retook the lead at 31-28 after scoring 21 consecutive points. Northwestern went back ahead 35-31 on a touchdown run by Jacob Schmidt with 1:43 left.
What it means: Illinois appears it’s putting together a special season. After back-to-back close wins over Arizona State and Western Michigan, the Illini had to dig even deeper to pull out Saturday’s win over rival Northwestern. They rallied from an 18-point deficit in the third quarter and then came back again in the final minute after Northwestern ahead.
Outside the box: The result of the game is secondary to Northwestern. Its season’s fate could depend on the extent of the injuries to running back Mike Trumpy and Persa. Trumpy was carted to the locker room after injuring his right leg in the third quarter. Persa was tripped up while scrambling in the second half and did not return to the game.
What’s next: Illinois hits the road next week for the first time this season. After five consecutive home wins, the Illini travel to Indiana. Northwestern will return home next week to face Michigan in a night game at Ryan Field.