12:00 PM ET, November 20, 2004
Ryan Field, EVANSTON, IL
EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) -- Brett Basanez connected with Jonathan Fields on a 7-yard scoring pass in overtime to give Northwestern a 28-21 victory Saturday, sending Illinois coach Ron Turner away with a loss in what might have been his last game.
It was the fourth overtime game this year for the Wildcats, an NCAA Division I-A record. Northwestern (6-5, 5-3 Big Ten) also beat Ohio State and Indiana in overtime, and lost to TCU.
The victory kept Northwestern's bowl hopes alive. The Wildcats have to win at Hawaii next weekend to be bowl eligible.
The loss spoiled a fine game by Pierre Thomas, who rushed for 131 yards and two scores for Illinois. It was his third 100-yard game of the season. Backup quarterback Chris Pazan was 20-of-33 for 149 yards.
Basanez was 18-of-31 for 184 yards. Noah Herron rushed for 97 yards and two scores.
Illinois (3-8, 1-7) has gone 9-26 since going to the Sugar Bowl three years ago, fueling speculation Turner will be fired. Turner said Monday he expects to be back.
The Illini wanted to win their final game in hopes it would convince athletic director Ron Guenther to keep Turner, who has two years left on his contract. And it looked as if they might just pull it off, scoring a go-ahead touchdown on a fake field goal attempt early in the fourth quarter.
But Jeff Backes returned a punt 73 yards for a score to tie the game, and Jason Reda's 31-yard field goal attempt for Illinois in the final seconds of regulation sailed wide left.
Northwestern got the ball first in overtime and wasted little time moving down the field. Basanez found Kim Thompson for a 6-yard gain, then connected with Fields for the 7-yard score.
The Northwestern defense was all over Pazan in overtime, hurrying him and forcing him to make bad throws. They were in his receivers' faces, too. After Mark Kornfeld caught a 4-yard pass to give Illinois fourth-and-6 at the 11, Pazan looked for Kendrick Jones in the end zone on fourth down.
But Marvin Ward smothered him, and Jones never got a hand on the ball. As officials signaled that the game was over, Ward's teammates piled on top of him. Senior defensive tackle Luis Castillo went into the stands to celebrate with fans, and several teammates joined him.
Northwestern finished with a perfect Big Ten home record for the first time since 1996. It also was the Wildcats' second straight victory in the intrastate rivalry.
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||8-19||4-14|
|4th Down Conversions||2-3||1-1|
|TD||12:46||NOAH HERRON 23 YD RUN (JOEL HOWELLS KICK)|
Drive info: 7 plays, 78 yards.
|TD||7:35||PIERRE THOMAS 4 YD RUN (JASON REDA KICK)|
Drive info: 9 plays, 53 yards.
|TD||1:12||PIERRE THOMAS 14 YD RUN (JASON REDA KICK)|
Drive info: 5 plays, 26 yards.
|TD||7:16||NOAH HERRON 1 YD RUN (JOEL HOWELLS KICK)|
Drive info: 11 plays, 78 yards.
|TD||13:25||STEVE WEATHERFORD 2 YD RUN (JASON REDA KICK)|
Drive info: 11 plays, 59 yards.
|TD||2:12||JEFF BACKES 73 YD PUNT RETURN (JOEL HOWELLS KICK)||21||21|
|TD||0:00||JONATHAN FIELDS 7 YD PASS FROM BRETT BASANEZ (JOEL HOWELLS KICK)|
Drive info: 5 plays, 25 yards.