CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) -- Jason Wright ran for 251 yards and four
touchdowns to lead Northwestern to a 37-20 victory over Illinois
Saturday in the season finale for both teams.
Noah Herron also carried for 163 yards as the Wildcats turned
entirely to their running game in the second half. Quarterback
Brett Basanez's only pass attempt after halftime was nullified by
an Illinois penalty.
The win makes Northwestern (6-6, 4-4 Big Ten) eligible for their
first bowl game since 2000.
Illinois (1-11, 0-8) lost its 10th game in a row to end its
worst season since going 0-11 in 1997, coach Ron Turner's first
Northwestern trailed at halftime 13-7, but took over in the
third quarter behind Wright and Herron. The two carried the ball
for 154 yards on the next two drives as the Wildcats grabbed a
Brian Huffman kicked a 38-yard field goal and Marvin Ward
returned an interception 69 yards for Northwestern's other scores.
Basanez was 3-of-9 for 24 yards.
The Illini scored the game's first points when John Gockman
kicked a 37-yard field goal to cap a 59-yard drive with 8:25 left
in the first quarter. It was the first time in nine games that
Illinois scored first.
On the next drive, faced with third-and-22, Basanez tried a pass
to the right flat, but Illini safety Travis Williams stepped in
front of the Wildcats' Roger Jordan to intercept and ran 32 yards
for a touchdown. The Illini scored twice within 1:01 for a 10-0
lead, their biggest lead since the second game of the season when
they beat Illinois State 49-22.
But Northwestern got things together on the next drive, handing
the ball to Wright four times on a seven-play drive. Wright carried
for 55 of the 59 yards on the drive, scoring the touchdown on a
Illinois' offense stalled under Dustin Ward, who left early in
the third quarter after hitting 14 of 27 attempts for only 93 yards
and three interceptions. Freshman Chris Pazan replaced him and
finished 18 of 28 for 188 yards.
Fullback Carey Davis rushed for 51 yards and 10 passes for 44
yards for Illinois. E.B. Halsey ran for 49 yards on 15 carries and
scored a touchdown.