Updated: November 24, 2012 6:40PM
“Sweet Home Chicago” can be heard at Ryan Field after Northwestern victories.
That wasn’t the case after the Wildcats defeated Illinois 50-14 on Saturday, however.
As tempting as it might have been to needle the Illini with the song, Northwestern officials were determined to take the high road. After what happened last year, when “Sweet Home Chicago and “My Kind of Town” blared from Memorial Stadium speakers after Illinois’ thrilling win, they didn’t want Illinois fans unfamiliar with their postgame sound track to misinterpret it as Northwestern one-upping the Illini.
Still, Northwestern’s ninth win was as satisfying as any victory the team has enjoyed this season and it wasn’t necessarily related to improving their bowl options, sending off the winningest five-year senior class in school history on a high note or coach Pat Fitzgerald tieing Lynn “Pappy” Waldorf’s record of 49 all-time wins.
Beating Illinois is enough, even if it was the ninth straight defeat for Illinois and their 14th straight conference defeat dating back to last season. The Wildcats (9-3 overall, 5-3 Big Ten) had lost two straight games to the Illini (2-10, 0-8). While they said all the right things this week they remembered the postgame scene from last season, which was an obvious reference to Northwestern billing itself as “Chicago’s Big Ten Team,” which prompted Illinois officials to come up with a competing slogan --- ‘‘Illinois. Our State. Our Team.’’
Besides, the scoreboard said what the lack of postgame music didn’t.
There’s no reason to rub it in after drubbing an opponent like the Wildcats did Saturday.
Kain Colter threw a career-high three touchdown passes as the Wildcats took advantage of four Illinois turnovers while blowing the Illini out in the second half. Venric Mark rushed for 127 yards on 18 carries. It
was the eighth time the junior running back has rushed for more than 100 yards this season.
The victory will likely send Northwestern to either the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla., the Outback Bowl in Tampa or the Capital One Bowl in Orlando. The Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl is another possibility. The loss signals the end to a disappointing first season under Illinois coach Tim Beckman, who was hired to replace Ron Zook after last season.
Northwestern led 27-14 after a sloppy first half and 48-14 after adding two more touchdowns following third-quarter interceptions by Ibraheim Campbell and Nick VanHoose. Northwestern scored 28 points off Illini turnovers.
Illinois had two sideline interference penalties, an illegal numbering penalty and two turnovers in the first quarter alone. The second sideline interference penalty came with the official tripped over
Illini coach Tim Beckman after David Nwabuisi intercepted a Nathan Scheelhaase pass and returned it nine yards and gave Northwestern a first down on the Illinois 12.