Illinois Enjoys Another Rally
A New Year’s Day bowl isn’t enough anymore for Illinois.
Kurt Kittner led No. 12 Illinois to a comeback victory for the fourth game in a row as the Fighting Illini defeated No. 25 Ohio State, 34-22, at Columbus, Ohio, to remain in contention for their first Big Ten title since 1990.
“We’re not happy with the Citrus Bowl,” Illinois receiver Walter Young said of the Big Ten’s second bowl affiliation. “We want a [bowl championship series] bowl. We’re greedy.”
Illinois (9-1, 6-1 in the Big Ten), which won its sixth in a row since losing to Michigan, can clinch at least a share of the conference title Thursday with a victory at home against Northwestern.
Ohio State (6-4, 4-3), which needed to win its last two games to remain in title contention, lost in its first game in almost three seasons without Steve Bellisari at quarterback. Bellisari was suspended indefinitely Friday after his arrest on two counts of drunken driving.
Before the game, Illinois Coach Ron Turner told his team to forget about the controversy bubbling around the Buckeyes.
“I told them, ‘It isn’t about Steve Bellisari against Illinois. It’s Ohio State against Illinois. Focus on Illinois first and Ohio State second,’ ” Turner said.
Kittner completed 18 of 28 passes for 274 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. He had led the Illini back from early deficits in victories against Wisconsin, Purdue and Penn State in their last three games.
Kittner was four of six for 51 yards in an 80-yard drive that ended with Carey Davis’ one-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter that gave Illinois the lead for good at 27-22.
Ohio State’s Scott McMullen and Craig Krenzel combined to go 15 of 36 for 206 yards passing and two touchdowns with two interceptions.
Penn State 28, Indiana 14--Larry Johnson ran for two touchdowns and scored on a shovel pass as the Nittany Lions kept their bowl hopes alive at State College, Pa.
The victory was No. 326 for Penn State Coach Joe Paterno, moving him three games ahead of Bear Bryant as the winningest coach in major college football.
The Nittany Lions (4-5, 3-4) need victories at Michigan State on Saturday and at Virginia on Dec. 1 to qualify for a bowl game.
Indiana’s Antwaan Randle El finished with 225 yards passing and 141 yards rushing, but penalties and miscues hurt the Hoosiers (3-6, 3-4).
Purdue 24, Michigan State 14--Montrell Lowe ran for 121 yards and two touchdowns, and backup quarterback Kyle Orton helped spark the Boilermakers at West Lafayette, Ind.
Orton replaced the ineffective Brandon Hance on the final drive of the first half. Hance was seven of 12 for 65 yards but couldn’t get Purdue (6-3, 4-3) into scoring position.
Orton, who attempted 19 passes in three games, went six of nine for 61 yards. Nearly all of his completions were longer than 10 yards and came on scoring drives.
The Spartans (5-4, 3-4) were without starting quarterback Jeff Smoker, who sprained his left shoulder in a loss in the previous game against Indiana. Backup Ryan Van Dyke was sidelined because of a fractured jaw, so the Spartans turned to Damon Dowdell, who finished 24 of 45 for 304 yards and two interceptions.
Iowa 42, Minnesota 24--Kyle McCann threw three touchdown passes and ran for another score at Iowa City as the Hawkeyes became bowl eligible for the first time since 1997.
Iowa (6-4, 4-4) executed almost perfectly on offense in taking a 21-0 lead in the first quarter and finished with 473 yards. Ladell Betts ran for 171 yards in 28 carries.
Minnesota (3-7, 1-6) compiled 475 yards, but the Gophers didn’t score a touchdown until Iowa had a 28-3 lead.
Bowling Green 43, Northwestern 42--Josh Harris hit Robert Redd on a five-yard touchdown pass with 36 seconds left and Cole Magner ran for a two-point conversion as the Falcons stunned the Wildcats in a nonconference game at Evanston, Ill.
Bowling Green (7-3) trailed by two touchdowns with 3:44 left before pulling off one the Mid-American Conference school’s greatest victories. Harris passed for 402 yards and three touchdowns, ran for two scores and also caught a scoring pass. Zak Kustok threw for three touchdowns for Northwestern (4-6).