NW 37, ILL 34 - Rapid Reaction

The quick hitting take on Illinois loss to Northwestern in the season finale.

It was over when: Northwestern's Treyvon Green rushed for 11 yards on third down late in the fourth quarter. The fresh set of downs kept the Illinois offense off the field and allowed the Wildcats to kill the clock.

Player of the game: Wildcats quarterback Trevor Siemian. The junior stepped in for injured starter Kain Colter and put up career numbers. He threw for 414 yards and four touchdowns, guiding the Wildcats to their highest point total since late September.

Illini of note:

Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase. The senior passed for 307 yards and two touchdowns, adding 55 yards on the ground. He broke Juice Williams school record for career yards in his final outing in Memorial Stadium.

Linebacker Jonathan Brown. Finished with 17 tackles, 1.5 for loss, and a pass breakup in his last game in the Orange & Blue.

Wideout Steve Hull. Caught 13 passes for 155 yards and a touchdown, ending his career with the eighth-most receiving yards in a season (993) in school history.

Stat of the game: Turnovers. Illinois had only one turnover -- an interception thrown by Scheelhaase -- but it drastically altered the game. Down by three in the fourth quarter, Scheelhaase tried to throw the ball out of bounds but left it short. Defensive end Tyler Scott caught it instead, setting up a Wildcats touchdown and 10-point advantage in place of a potential Illini go-ahead score. The Wildcats didn't turn the ball over once.

The takeaway: Two bad teams took the field Saturday and actually put on an enjoyable game to watch. The Illini, once again, started slowly, falling behind by 10 to start the game. The team fought back but couldn't finish out for the victory. Compared to last season's embarrassing season-ending loss, it's clear that improvement has been made. Moral victories frequently fall on deaf ears though. Illinois could have won this game, the third time in Big Ten play a second half lead ended in defeat. Bill Cubit and his offense made this show worth following. Whatever it takes, Cubit must be retained. The defense needs a shakeup and an infusion of talent. That's the task starting Sunday. Figure out the direction, implement the scheme. And recruit. Year Three of the Beckman Era is make or break. This offseason is crucial.

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