Evanston, Ill. — Justin Jackson ran his way into the Northwestern record books in just three seasons and could finish his career as the school’s all-time leading rusher.
Still, he is content right now to share the running back position with emerging newcomer John Moten.
Jackson rushed for 173 yards and three touchdowns, Moten added 128 yards and two touchdowns and Northwestern became bowl eligible with a 42-21 victory over Illinois on Saturday.
“It’s cool,” Jackson said. “I think John’s come a long way. He’s obviously shown the player he can be. It’s pretty exciting.”
Clayton Thorson completed 13 of 20 passes for 121 yards and a touchdown as the Wildcats improved to 6-6 and 5-4 in the Big Ten.
“I’m excited that I get one more opportunity to be with them on the field in a game,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said.
“The first couple of weeks certainly didn’t look good, but it’s a credit to the seniors we were able to come back.”
Wes Lunt completed 28 of 54 passes for 377 yards and two touchdowns (with one interception) for Illinois (3-9, 2-7), which closed out its first season under coach Lovie Smith with three straight losses.
“We have an idea of what we need to do and what direction we need to go in all areas,” Smith said. “This is the start. You don’t like to be in this situation, but that’s normally how it happens.”
After trailing 21-0, Illinois rallied for two touchdowns to pull within 21-14 at halftime and appeared headed for a game-tying score on its first possession of the second half when things fell apart.
First, running back Reggie Corbin fumbled at the 8-yard line and safety Godwin Igwebuike recovered to give the ball — and momentum — back to Northwestern.
Two plays later, Illinois safety Stanley Green was ejected after a targeting penalty for a hit on wide receiver Flynn Nagel. The 15-yard penalty (on top of the 10-yard completion) advanced the ball to the NU 46. Jackson then broke a 54-yard scoring run to make it 28-14 with 9:24 remaining in the third quarter.
Leading 35-21 early in the fourth quarter, Northwestern put the game away on a 4-yard TD run by Jackson. The score was set up by a 66-yard interception return by Montre Hartage to the 5.
Jackson moved into second place on NU’s all-time rushing list — passing Darnell Autry (3,793) and Tyrell Sutton (3,886) — with 3,905 yards. Jackson, who has 27 career rushing TDs, trails only Damien Anderson (4,485).
(At) Indiana 26, Purdue 24: After enduring a series of coaching changes along with progressions and regressions over the past 25 years, the Hoosiers finally took a big step forward with a come-from-behind victory to claim their fourth consecutive Old Oaken Bucket and their second straight bowl trip.
“All we talked about was the simplicity of the game,” coach Kevin Wilson said. “But to give those guys (seniors) one more month, that’s really cool because you get to spend more time together.
“To me, it was more about you just wanted more time with them than the historical deal. I think we’re trying to create our own history and trying to grow.”
Indiana (6-6, 4-5) tied the school record for most consecutive wins (four) in a series that dates to 1891. The only other time it happened was from 1944-47.
The Hoosiers also earned their back-to-back bowl bids since 1990 and 1991 and won four conference games for the first time since 2001.
All it took Saturday was a 1-yard touchdown plunge from Devine Redding with 4:59 to go, two forced turnovers in the final 66 seconds and the addition of one more bronze block “I’’ added to the chain that fits neatly inside the prized trophy.
And in a season full of drama, it was a fitting way for the Hoosiers to snap a two-game losing streak and earn their elusive sixth victory.
The Boilermakers (3-9, 1-8) certainly had some chances to end their losing streak at six.
They scored the first touchdown of the day, would have tied the score at halftime if not for a missed extra point, took a 22-17 lead with a 31-yard TD pass from David Blough to DeAngelo Yancey to open the third quarter before missing the 2-point conversion attempt.
Then it all unraveled.
Indiana closed to 22-20 on a 46-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter and retook the lead on Redding’s go-ahead score.
Purdue’s final possession ended when Jonathan Crawford picked off Blough in the end zone on fourth-and-14 from the Hoosiers’ 27-yard line.
Redding ran 24 times for 99 yards, becoming the first Indiana player since Vaughn Dunbar to top the 1,000-yard mark in two straight seasons. Redding has 1,050 yards with one to play.
(At) Maryland 31, Rutgers 13: Ty Johnson ran for 168 yards, Teldrick Morgan returned a punt 83 yards for a score and the Terrapins became bowl eligible by beating the Scarlet Knights.
After losing four straight by a combined 191-49 score, Maryland (6-6, 3-6 Big Ten) took the lead for good in the opening minute and cruised to the finish.
“If we started the season 0-4 and then came on a tear and were on a 4-0 streak going into this game, it would be the greatest thing going,” Maryland coach D.J. Durkin said. “But it didn’t happen that way. We’re 6-6, and we’re eligible for a bowl game.”
Durkin arrived in December after serving as defensive coordinator at Michigan. Under his guidance, the Terrapins will play in a bowl game for only the fourth time since 2008.
Rutgers (2-10, 0-9) finished its first year under Chris Ash with nine consecutive defeats. The Scarlet Knights were outscored 360-86 in Big Ten games.
The Terrapins led 21-7 at halftime and finished with 318 yards rushing. Senior quarterback Perry Hills, who missed last week’s loss to Nebraska with a shoulder injury, returned to go 9-for-15 for 96 yards.
Justin Goodwin rushed for 86 yards and a touchdown for Rutgers. Giovanni Rescigno completed 22 of 39 passes for 203 yards but was sacked seven times.
The Scarlet Knights received poor play from their special teams, which allowed the long punt return, missed a field goal and botched an extra point.
Maryland went up 7-0 when Kenneth Goins Jr. ran for 46-yard touchdown on the second play from scrimmage.
Late in the quarter, Morgan fielded a punt and was hit immediately by Anthony Cioffi. The senior shrugged off the contact, worked his way toward the left sideline and raced into the end zone.
That gave Maryland more points (14) than it totaled in its previous three games (13).
Hawkeye steamed over alleged slur
An Iowa football player has said a Nebraska player slung racial slurs at him as the Big Ten rivals played in Iowa City on Friday.
Iowa defensive tackle Faith Ekakitie said he was the target of racial slurs from a Nebraska offensive lineman whom Ekakitie declined to name during postgame interviews Friday evening, the Des Moines Register reported.
Asked Saturday by The Associated Press about Ekakitie’s allegation, Nebraska football spokesman Keith Mann sent a one-sentence written statement saying the Nebraska athletic department and team officials are aware of Ekakitie’s comments. Mann did not respond to follow-up questions asking whether team officials had spoken to Nebraska players about the allegations or whether Nebraska plans to investigate.
An Iowa team spokesman said Saturday that Hawkeye officials had no comment on Ekakitie’s assertion.
The 6-foot-3, 290-pound Ekakitie is a native of Brampton, Ontario, and went to high school in Lake Forest, Illinois. He finished with five tackles in Iowa’s 40-10 win over Nebraska.
Ekakitie said it was the first time he had been targeted by racial slurs while playing.
“Anyone that is willing to openly go out of their way and throw that around — even in a competitive environment — I think you’re a piece of trash,” he said.