EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) — A forgettable season for first-year Illinois coach Tim Beckman came to a resounding conclusion on Saturday.
The Illini dropped their ninth straight in a 50-14 loss to Northwestern. During that streak, opponents outscored Illinois 333-118.
"We have to move forward," Beckman said. "There's only one way you can go and that's forward.
"The losing really hurts."
After marching 78 yards on 11 plays to score a touchdown during the opening drive, the Illini (2-10, 0-8 Big Ten) fell apart. Four turnovers, including three interceptions, led to 28 Northwestern points.
Venric Mark rushed for 127 yards and a touchdown as Northwestern improved its chances for a berth in a New Year's Day bowl game.
Wildcats quarterback Kain Colter threw for a career-high three touchdowns and the Wildcats (9-3, 5-3) reached nine victories for the first time since 2008 and captured the Land of Lincoln Trophy after losing 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 15-yard touchdown for Illinois, which has lost 14 in a row in Big Ten play and ranks last in the conference in scoring offense. Nathan Scheelhaase went 9 for 14 for 91 yards and two interceptions for the Illini.
"We've felt like we've been in a struggle for a while, kind of in a bind that we haven't been able to crawl out of," Scheelhaase said. "As a season, as a whole, it's been tough."
Northwestern led 27-14 at halftime, then scored early in the third quarter on Colter's 15-yard pass to Tyris Jones. Ibraheim Campbell intercepted a Scheelhaase pass and 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.
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.
"We'll definitely remember the sting of this whole season, not just this game," Illinois running back Josh Ferguson said.