CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — Without their starting quarterback and multiple key players, Illinois was unable to find any offense in a 29-10 loss to Northwestern to end their regular season.
A bowl was the goal, that was already locked up before Illinois took the field Saturday. But instead of celebrating a senior day win, the Illini leave with a sour taste in their mouth, losing their second straight game to end the regular season.
Northwestern looked like the team more interested in playing in the rain, wind and cold here at Memorial Stadium. The Wildcats won their first Big Ten game of the year, and just their third all year, dominating the Illini in almost every way. Just 14 rushing yards for Illinois, nine first downs and a nearly three to one difference in total yards, all adds up to a disappointing end, as Northwestern raises the Land of Lincoln trophy for the fifth straight season.
“Disappointment doesn’t even seem like a strong enough word for what we did today,” Lovie Smith said.
“Mission incomplete really from all phases, offense defense, special teams I believe too,” Dele Harding said. “That’s not the way we wanted to go out.”
Injuries played a major part, with several Illini starters out including quarterback Brandon Peters. Matt Robinson filled in, completing 8 of his 17 passes for 108 yards. But it was the run game that struggled most, Dre Brown led the team with 17 yards.
“I mean we just didn’t play our best offensively, we couldn’t really get in a rhythm so we’ll correct it, watch it on film and see what we can do better,” Robinson said.
“We’ve always known rivalry games, records don’t matter like you can see,” Alex Palczewski said. “For Northwestern, this was their bowl game you know and they played very well.”
The play on the field was not good but the highlight of the day came off of it. Bobby Roundtree was back in the stadium for the first time since a serious spinal cord injury in May. The junior surprised the team before the game in the locker room, then made an appearance on the sideline in the fourth quarter. Head coach Lovie Smith said after the game, the goal is for him to one day walk again.
Illinois finishes the regular season 6-6 and 4-5 in the Big Ten. They will learn their bowl fate on December 8th.