HEADLINE

Northwestern stands between Illinois and one more game

Field Level Media

November 21, 2023 at 10:01 pm.

Northwestern edged visiting Purdue last week to become bowl eligible.

On Saturday, the Wildcats can deny in-state rival Illinois the same postseason distinction with a road victory, but Northwestern coach David Braun insists that doesn’t factor into the team’s preparation for the Big Ten contest in Champaign, Ill.

“That’s not on my mind. … We talk about leaving no doubt, and this is an opportunity to do that,” Braun said.

Cam Porter rushed for 95 yards and two touchdowns and Ben Bryant passed for 230 yards and a score to boost Northwestern to a 23-15 win over Purdue in its home finale. That marked the third victory in four games for the Wildcats (6-5, 4-4), who have shown perseverance amid a preseason hazing scandal that resulted in the firing of longtime coach Pat Fitzgerald.

“Through the adversity, we’ve stayed strong and we’ve stayed together,” Porter said. “It was a blessing to come away with the win and go out the right way.”

Illinois (5-6, 3-5) is coming off a 15-13 road loss at Iowa. The Fighting Illini surrendered a game-winning, 30-yard touchdown run with 4:43 remaining in the game.

Iowa outgained Illinois 281-280 as both offenses struggled to find room. Reggie Love III rushed for 64 yards and a touchdown for Illinois, while John Paddock passed for 215 yards.

The Illini will aim to limit Northwestern with a defense that has used its share of lineups this season, including true freshmen such as Jaheim Clarke and Mac Resetich in the secondary.

“Put ego aside,” Illinois defensive coordinator Aaron Henry said. “I want to give whoever gives us the best chance to win the opportunity. It’s obviously a constant process. I don’t want nobody, especially in the secondary, to get comfortable thinking it’s their position because they’ve started in it or played in it consistently. … At the end of the day, it’s about, ‘Can you do your job and can you execute your job?'”

Illinois leads the all-time series with Northwestern 57-54-5 and is eyeing its third straight victory in the rivalry.