Basanez, making his 39th consecutive start, became the third Big
Ten quarterback to pass for more than 10,000 yards in his career,
reaching 10,164 to join Purdue's Drew Brees and Iowa's Chuck Long
in reaching the milestone. He also rushed for 85 yards and two
touchdowns as the Wildcats' league-leading offense rolled up three
dozen first downs and gained 596 yards.
Northwestern (7-4, 5-3) reached seven victories for the first
time since it shared the Big Ten championship in 2000 and can look
forward to a bowl game next month. Illinois (2-9, 0-8) has only one
conference victory in three seasons.
Illinois, which hadn't scored a touchdown in two games, gained
440 yards against Northwestern's defense, ranked last in the Big
Thomas finished with 97 yards on 18 carries and Brasic finished
the day 20-of-35 for 241 yards. He also ran for 53 yards.
But Basanez and Sutton had their way most of the day. Sutton
carried 34 times while Basanez was 25-of-31, including a 9-yard TD
pass to Frayne Abernathy.
Joel Howell's added a late 19-yard field goal to give
Northwestern a 24-21 lead at the break.
In a game between the Big Ten's two worst defenses most anything
could happen and it did when Northwestern was faced with a
4th-and-5 at the Illinois 28 in the third quarter.
With kicker Joel Howells on the field as a decoy, the Wildcats
hoodwinked the Illini by snapping the ball to up back Mark
Philmore, who quickly gave it to Gerard Hamlett while faking a run
to the left. Hamlett went the other way untouched for a touchdown
that gave Northwestern a 31-21 lead.
Illinois threatened to answer in its next drive, but Brasic was
intercepted by defensive tackle Barry Cofield at the Wildcats 9.
Basanez added his second TD of the day with an 8-yard run with
6:50 to go in the game.