Northwestern 34, Illinois 21
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) _ Chris Hamdorf passed for 183 yards and three touchdowns in his first start this season as Northwestern beat Illinois 34-21 Saturday and extended the Fighting Illini’s losing streak to 15 games.
Hamdorf completed 15 of 19 passes with no interceptions for the Wildcats (4-7, 2-5 Big Ten). Adrian Autry rushed for 111 yards and one touchdown on 26 carries in his sixth 100-yard game this season.
The Wildcats scored 10 of their 20 first-half points after Illinois (0-9, 0-6) mishandled one punt return and fumbled another.
Illinois has lost a school-record tying 15 consecutive games, dating back to Oct. 5, 1996, when the Illini beat Indiana 46-43 in double overtime.
Illinois, which hasn’t scored a touchdown in 10 quarters coming into the game, scored on its first drive after Michael Young recovered a fumble. Tim Lavery completed a 2-yard touchdown pass to Steve Havard to cap a seven-play, 50-yard drive that gave the Illini a 7-0 lead.
But Northwestern evened the score with 2:32 remaining in the first quarter when Brian Musso made a leaping 12-yard catch in the end zone. The three-play drive was set up when the Wildcats recovered a muffed punt after it bounced off Illini Robert Jackson.
Northwestern took a 14-7 lead on a 7-yard run by Autry with 9:53 left in the first half.
Brian Gowins hit field goals of 38 and 44 yards as the Wildcats took a 20-7 lead into halftime. The second field goal came as time ran out, and was set up when Northwestern recovered a fumbled punt return by Illinois’ Rob Majoy.
Northwestern increased the lead to 34-7 in the third quarter on passes of 31 yards and 25 yards from Hamdorf to John Burden, who finished with three receptions for 71 yards.
Robert Holcombe scored on a 1-yard run for Illinois to make it 34-13 after Ivan Benson recovered a blocked Northwestern punt at the 1-yard line. Holcombe also caught a 28-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Mark Hoekstra, who replaced starter Tim Lavery in the second half.
Holcombe finished with 87 rushing yards and 48 receiving yards and passed the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the season in the third quarter to become the first Illini running back in history to compile three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons.