The Wrigley Field football game became a target of mockery this week. Yet although the Wrigley Field football game will be remembered in infamy now, Illinois and Northwestern still had to play it. Although they could each only go one way, to avoid colliding into the outfield wall, the Illini and Wildcats had to persevere. After all, Illinois had to secure a rare bowl berth, while Northwestern sought to improve their bowl resume. But after all the ridicule over the planning at Wrigley Field, the football game went forward with an impressive Illini upset.
Northwestern had just come off an upset win over Iowa, to improve to 7-3. At 5-5, Illinois came in fighting for their season, and for coach Ron Zook’s job. To that end, they took a big step forward with a 48-27 victory, giving them their first bowl berth since their 2007 Big Ten crown.
Of course, the Wrigley Field football game will not be remembered for Illinois’s milestone. It is now infamous as the “one way game” since the outfield wall was far too close behind the west red zone. The Big Ten and stadium officials had 18 months to figure that out, but they scrambled for a last minute solution instead.
As such, both teams only ran offensive plays in the east direction, while punt returns, fumble and interceptions could be returned to the west. As it turned out, Northwestern’s Brian Peters got a quick 59-yard interception return in the first quarter, and avoided running into the wall.
By the time that happened, however, the Wrigley Field football game was quickly going against the Wildcats. Illinois jumped to a 14-0 lead, but Peter’s interception and Mike Trumpy’s 80-yard run settled Northwestern down. They briefly tied the score at 24, but a late first half field goal put the Illini back ahead, 27-24, at halftime.
In the second half, the Illini took control, behind an historic rushing performance by Mikel LaShoure. Along with two early touchdowns, LaShoure got 330 yards on 33 carries, setting a single game record for Illinois. All told, the Illini got 519 rushing yards, and only needed 40 passing yards.
While the Wrigley Field football game will have a mixed place in history, Iliinois will remember it very fondly. Their 6-5 record will put them in a bowl, and help make a case for Zook to stick around. As for the Wildcats, their up-and-down season took another hit, as they went back down to 7-4.
The day was a showcase for Wrigley Field, although the actual football game was no showcase for the home team. The Wildcats now have to recover by upsetting Wisconsin next week, while the Illini can clinch a winning season at Fresno State in two weeks.
Yahoo Sports- “Illinois at Northwestern”