2:23 p.m. UPDATE: Illinois holds on for a 28-22 victory, recovering a late onside kick after an NIU field goal with :19 seconds left and then taking a knee to go to 2-1 on the season.
1:10 p.m. UPDATE: Live blogging has picked up with 6 minutes to go in the third quarter and Illinois leading 18-12.
Join Writing Illini later this morning for a live blogging experience of the Northern Illinois and Illinois game (see past Gameday Binoculars). Due to a prior commitment, I will pick up with the live blogging during the second half of the game and then recap the first half later this afternoon (now completed on page two of this post).
To follow the NIU-UI game throughout its entirety, check out Nick Houska’s drive-by-drive updates on the Writing Illini Twitter page.
Alright. Just got home and will be picking up the live play-by-play with under 6 minutes in the third quarter and Illinois leading 18-12. I will watch the first half after the game and get the play-by-play up on the site.
3rd and 1 Illinois from the UI 35: Mikel Leshoure runs up the gut for 3 yards and a first down. Lineman Hugh Thornton is down on the play, and there will be a television timeout as a result of the injury.
Injury Update: Coming out of the television timeout, Hugh Thornton is still down. This does not look good. The replay shows that Thornton took a helmet-to-helmet hit. The cart is on the field, and Thornton is getting placed on the yellow stretcher. A very scary moment here. Let’s hope Thornton is alright. It does not look like Thornton is moving, though he was rolled over from on his stomach to his back. The entire Illini team is on the field. The UI trainers were holding Thornton’s neck in place when he was rolled over. Let’s hope and pray for the best for Thornton, a sophomore from Oberlin, OH. Thornton has been lifted up onto the cart and is getting a nice ovation from the 50,000 people in attendance at Memorial Stadium. His teammates Clay Nurse, Corey Liuget, Graham Pocic and Nate Bussey were all out on the field to help him get on the cart. Thornton has just given a thumbs up, which is a good sign. The UI trainers removed Thornton’s face mask.
1st and 10 Illinois from the UI 38: Leshoure runs off the left guard for 3 yards. 2nd and 7 Illinois from the 41: Randall Hunt has moved to the tackle spot and Jack Cornell is in the game. On second down, Leshoure runs up the gun for 3 yards. 3rd and 4 from the 44: NIU takes a timeout with 4:17 to go. A television timeout ensues as well. Scheelhaase has rushed 11 times for 79 yards and 1 touchdown. Leshoure has ran 15 times for 107 yards.
3rd and 4 Illinois from the 44: Illinois is the gun with 4 receivers out. A very safe call results in nothing, as Scheelhaase hands off to Leshoure, who is swarmed at the line of scrimmage for no gain. 4th and 3 from the 45: Anthony Santella punts the ball inside the NIU 10-yard line, with the ball bouncing at the 7 and then caroming out of bounds at the 12.
Anthony Santella pins NIU at the 12-yard line.
1st and 10 NIU from its own 12: Chandler Harnish keeps the ball out of the gun and runs for 1 yard before getting smacked by Ian Thomas. 2nd and 9 from the 13: Harnish in the gun, rolls out and hits Landon Cox for a first down. Justin Green with the tackle.
1st and 10 NIU from the 25: Harnish hits Landon Cox for 9 yards. That would have been a pick if Ashante Williams, who was covering underneath, was looking for the football. Unfortunately, he had his head turned, allowing the catch by Cox. 2nd and 1 from the NIU 34: Chad Spann runs up the gut for 2 yards and a first down, with Martez Wilson making the tackle.
1st and 10 NIU from its 36: Harnish in the gun and hands off to Spann, who is wrapped up by Justin Staples and Wilson. 2nd and 10 from the 36: Harnish out of the gun and hits Martel Moore to the NIU 40. A nice tackle by Travon Bellamy. 3rd and 6 from the NIU 40: Harnish hits a wide-open Moore across the middle to the Illinois 46-yard line. That will end the third quarter.
Illinois leads 18-12 after three quarters, but the upset-minded Huskies are at the Illini 46. It’s time for the Illini defense to stay strong and the offense to wake up a bit after a scoreless third quarter.
1st and 10 Northern from the UI 46: Illinois comes up with a huge turnover. After a big run, Harnish has the ball knocked away by Ian Thomas, and Tavon Wilson recovers the ball for the Illini.
Ian Thomas comes up huge, stripping the ball from a scampering Harnish. Tavon Wilson recovers, and Illinois temporarily holds onto the momentum.
1st and 10 Illinois from its own 30: Scheelhaase runs for 2 yards. 2nd and 8 from the 32: Leshoure runs for 1 yard. 3rd and 7 from the 33: Scheelhaase with a bad throw that should have been intercepted, but NIU linebacker Tyrone Clark wasn’t looking up. A bad throw by Scheelhaase, who doesn’t look confident in his passing game today. 4th and 7: Santella booms a punt into the NIU end zone.
Another three-and-out for the Illini.
1st and 10 NIU from its own 20: A rolling Harnish hits tight end Jack Marks for a gain of 21 yards.
1st and 10 NIU from its own 41: A rolling Harnish nearly has his pass picked by Justin Green, who was out of bounds before establishing possession. That looked like a simultaneous catch, as the NIU receiver also caught the ball. The play was ruled incomplete, but an official review is under way with 13 minutes left. I thought that Justin Green first made the catch, but the ruling on the field will stand. 2nd and 10 from the 41: Harnish in the gun and is pressured before getting sacked by Justin Staples. There is a flag on the play. Holding on Spann. That will be a 10-yard penalty. Great pressure for the Illini from Evan Frierson. 2nd and 20 NIU from its own 32: Northern Illinois is called for a delay of game. The Memorial Stadium crowd is getting loud and contributed to that penalty call. 2nd and 25 NIU from its 27: Clay Nurse brings good pressure, but Harnish dumps to running back Jasmin Hopkins, who is swarmed in the backfield by Ian Thomas and Martez Wilson. Great pursuit by the defense. 3rd and 29 from the 23: Jasmin Hopkins runs for 9 yards. 4th and 20 from the NIU 33: NIU punts inside the Illini 30, where Jarred Fayson makes a fair catch.
The Illini defense holds yet again, thanks to great pressure up front and a couple of bad penalties by the Huskies. Illinois needs to run some time here. Maybe get Scheelhaase in the bootleg as it looks like his passing is a bit off today. A touchdown should put this game away for Illinois. Another short drive will keep the Huskies alive and will be equivalent to playing with fire.
UPDATE ON HUGH THORNTON:
He has been taken to the hospital for further evaluation, but has movement in his extremities.
1st and 10 Illinois from its own 27 with 10:26 to go: Leshoure rips off a big 11-yard run up the middle.
1st and 10 Illinois from its own 39: Scheelhaase in the gun, fakes a hand off and runs for 12 yards. A very smart decision by Scheelhaase.
1st and 10 Illinois from the NIU 48: Scheelhaase in the gun and hands off to Leshoure, who rips off another big run, this time to the NIU 24.
1st and 10 Illinois from the NIU 24: Scheelhaase is in the gun and hands off to Jason Ford, who is wrapped up and loses a yard. 2nd and 11 Illinois from the NIU 25: Scheelhaase is under center and hands off to Ford off the left guard for 4 yards. 3rd and 7 Illinois from the NIU 21: Big play here. Don’t force anything if you’re Scheelhaase. Got to keep the field position. Scheelhaase scrambles and is about a yard short. An electrifying run there, but Scheelhaase was a bit loose with the ball. 4th and 1 from the 16: The field goal unit is out, and Derek Dimke hits a big 34-yard field goal to put the Illini up 21-12.
Illinois gets 3 points thanks to picking up 3 quick first downs on big runs by Leshoure, Scheelhaase and Leshoure. Derek Dimke drills a 34-yard field goal with roughly 7 minutes to go and the Illini lead 21-12. Talk about 3 big points for the Illini. Now let’s put this away.
Dimke kicks off through the end zone, and NIU will start with the ball at its own 20 with 7:07 to go.
1st and 10 NIU from its own 20: Harnish is lined up in the gun and rolls out before hitting Landon Cox for 13 yards.
1st and 10 NIU from its own 33: Harnish keeps out of the gun and rips off a big run to the Illini 20. That play was slow developing. Travon Bellamy missed a big tackle on the 47-yard gain.
1st and 10 NIU from the Illinois 20: NIU scores a touchdown as Harnish hands off to Jasmin Hopkins, who fakes a run and throws a touchdown pass to a wide-open Landon Cox. The extra point is good, and Illinois leads 21-19.
Unbelievable. NIU goes 80 yards in 3 plays and just 1:07 to cut this game to 21-19. The Illinois defense gave up two straight big plays (a 47-yard Harnish run and 20-yard halfback pass for a touchdown) on that possession, which was a let down if there ever was one. Ouch. A huge possession for the Illini offense here.
Darius Millines catches the ball at the 19 and returns it just before the Illinois 40-yard line.
1st and 10 Illinois from its own 37: Scheelhaase in the gun and hands to Leshoure, who runs for 4 tough yards after nothing was there. 2nd and 6 from the 45: Scheelhaase has a passed tip at the line of scrimmage. Luckily, that pass was not picked. 3rd and 6 from the 45: Scheelhaase checks down to Leshoure, who is a yard short on the reception. 4th and 1 from the Illini 46: Illinois will go for it and Leshoure runs for 3 big yards.
1st and 10 Illinois from its own 49: Scheelhaase fakes a hand off to Troy Pollard and runs for 10 yards.
1st and 10 Illinois from the NIU 41 with 3:38 to go: Troy Pollard runs up the gut for one yard. 2nd and 9 Illinois from the NIU 40: Scheelhaase hands off to Leshoure for nothing, a loss of 1 yard. 3rd and 10 Illinois from the 41 with 2:40 to go: Scheelhaase is in the gun and hits A.J. Jenkins on the sidelines for a 10-yard catch. Great throw and catch. A measurement takes place, and Illinois gets the first down.
1st and 10 Illinois from the NIU 30: Scheelhaase hands off to Ford out of the gun, who runs for a yard. NIU takes a timeout. The Huskies have 1 timeout left.
Illinois is clinging to a 21-19 lead with 1:51 left. The Illini are at the NIU 29, facing a 2nd and 9. NIU has one timeout left. The Illini are one first down away from winning this game.
2nd and 10 Illinois from the NIU 29: Mikel Leshoure runs for a 29-yard touchdown off the right tackle. A nice block down field by Darius Millines. Dimke makes the extra point.
Illinois looks like it has put this game away, as Leshoure runs for a 29-yard touchdown with 1:43 to go to give the Illini a 28-19 lead. Leshoure with a career-high 24 carries for 180 yards.
Dimke kicks the ball into the NIU end zone for a touch back.
1st and 10 NIU from its own 20: Harnish hits Marks for 16-yards.
1st and 10 NIU from its own 36: Harnish keeps out of the gun and runs for 4 yards before Martez Wilson and Justin Staples make the tackle. 2nd and 6 from the NIU 40: Harnish’s pass to Landon Cox is incomplete. 3rd and 6 NIU from its own 40: Harnish hits Marks to the 50-yard line for a first down.
1st and 10 NIU from midfield: Harnish’s pass is tipped in the air and intercepted by Ian Thomas. However, there is a personal foul on Clay Nurse for roughing the passer. That bad penalty will keep the ball with NIU with 34 seconds left.
1st and 10 NIU from the Illinois 35: Harnish hits Perez Ashford for a short gain. NIU will take a timeout as the Illini kept Ashford in bounds. 2nd and 6 from the UI 31: NIU with a smart decision and will kick the field goal, which is good from former Illini kicker Michael Cklamovski with 19 seconds left.
Illinois leads 28-22 with :19 seconds left after an NIU field goal. The hands team will need to preserve this game. Very shrewd game management by Jerry Kill and his Northern coaching staff.
Cklamovski’s onside kick is successfully field by Jarred Fayson of Illinois. One snap and this game is over.
1st and 10 Illinois from the NIU 43: Scheelhaase takes the snap and a knee as this game comes to an end.
Illinois wins 28-22, surviving a gritty NIU team and overcoming some penalities/gaffes with an effective running game. Leshoure is 20 yards short of 200 on the game while Scheelhaase also goes for more than 100 yards on the ground. With Ohio State and Penn State up next, the Illini couldn’t lose today if it hoped to play in a bowl game this season.
Ron Zook is talking on the Big Ten Network, saying he’s not so sure Illinois would have won that game last season. He adds that Illinois needs to clean up the penalties.
Mikel Leshoure is now talking on the Big Ten Network, saying that it was a tough game but noting that the Illini executed for the most part in the fourth quarter.
I’m going to catch up with the first half and include the play-by-play by creating a new page to this post, which can be viewed here.