Rapid Reaction: Northwestern finishes off rough season with strong upset of Illinois
Final Score: Northwestern 29, Illinois 10
Brief Recap: Well, that was definitely a script reversal for how the 2019 season has gone for both teams. For Northwestern, the Wildcats entered Saturday’s Land of Lincoln rivalry without a conference win and 2-9 overall record in a tough season. For Illinois, the Illini entered already bowl eligible and looking for their seventh win of the season. With injuries on both sides of the ball, backup QBs took center stage. In the end, it was Northwestern’s Andrew Marty that outplayed Illinois’ Matt Robinson. Pat Fitzgerald’s Wildcat defense also did their part in shutting down an Illini offense from start to finish.
Key Moment: With Northwestern clinging to a three-point lead halfway through the third quarter, Marty led a 69-yard drive to build a two-possession lead. He capped the drive with a picture-perfect pass to Riley Lees for a 34-yard touchdown. That play gave Northwestern a 10-point cushion; a mark Illinois would not be able to battle back from.
Key Stat: 160, total yards by the Illini. The Wildcats held Illinois to 14 total yards rushing and kept star running back Reggie Corbin in negative rushing yards for the game. That defensive dominance allowed Northwestern to hold the ball for more than 40 minutes of game time in a stifling win.
Key Player: It has to go to Andrew Marty, the fourth quarterback that Northwestern used in the 2019 season. With the Wildcats needing a spark, Marty gave the team a jolt with three total touchdowns. He completed just 6-of-10 passes for 55 yards with a touchdown and an interception, but Marty did his best work running the ball. He carried the ball 30 times for 111 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.
What it Means for Northwestern: The Wildcats finish the 2019 season with a 3-9 record, one of their worst seasons in recent history. Considering Northwestern won the B1G West in 2018, this season obviously provided plenty of disappointments. However, it should be noted the Wildcats had a rotating door on the offensive side of the ball at some key positions. Hopefully, the experience gained by some young players will be a good thing heading into 2020.
What it Means for Illinois: Unfortunately, Illinois will continue its losing streak in the Land of Lincoln rivalry series. Despite a chance to secure a seventh win and a winning season, the injuries to Brandon Peters and others were too much to overcome. Thankfully, Illinois will head to a bowl game at 6-6 with a shot at securing a winning season.