Northwestern routs Illinois 50-14

Associated Press Modified: November 24, 2012 at 4:46 pm •  Published: November 24, 2012
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EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) — Northwestern wanted to bolster its chances for a big-time bowl game. The Wildcats did that and more.

Venric Mark rushed for 127 yards and a touchdown as Northwestern beat Illinois 50-14 on Saturday.

Kain Colter threw for a career-high three touchdowns and the Wildcats (9-3, 5-3 Big Ten) reached nine victories for the first time since 2008.

The next challenge for the Wildcats is to win a bowl game — they have lost nine in a row.

"Nine wins is a great year. Ten is special," Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. "To be a bowl champion could be a great exclamation point."

Penalties and turnovers hurt Illinois (2-10, 0-8), which has lost nine straight and 14 in a row in Big Ten play. The Illini committed four turnovers — including three interceptions — and eight penalties in their season finale.

"When you're playing a team right now that's won a lot of football games and is considered one of the top 25, 30 teams in the country, then you're going to have to play a lot better than we did," first-year coach Tim Beckman said.

Northwestern captured the Land of Lincoln Trophy after losing to the Illini in the rivalry game the last two seasons.

"It's a rivalry game, so you definitely want bragging rights," said Colter, who completed 9 of 11 passes for 102 yards. "I haven't beaten them since I've been here. We really wanted to get this one and get back on track and finish this season up right, and especially do it for our seniors."

Donovonn Young rushed for 74 yards and a touchdown for Illinois, which ranks last in the Big Ten in scoring offense. Nathan Scheelhaase went 9 for 14 for 91 yards and two interceptions.

Northwestern led 27-14 at halftime, then scored early in the third quarter on Colter's 15-yard pass to Tyris Jones. After Ibraheim Campbell intercepted Scheelhaase, the Wildcats turned the game into a rout with a 24-yard touchdown catch by wide-open offensive tackle Paul Jorgensen from Colter for a 41-14 lead.

"He was lined up at left tackle and he ends up running down the field wide open," Colter said about Jorgensen. "It's a good feeling to get an offensive lineman six points."

After another Illinois interception, Mike Trumpy scored on a 3-yard run for a 48-14 lead. Northwestern recorded a safety with 3 minutes left.

Despite struggling on offense all season, Illinois showed life early.

The Illini scored on the opening drive on Young's 15-yard run. The drive covered 78 yards and ate up 6:02 on the clock.