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Northwestern ekes out 37-34 win over Illini to end season

Northwestern linebacker CollEllis (45) breaks up pass intended for Illinois running back Josh Fergus(6) during first half an NCAA college

Northwestern linebacker Collin Ellis (45) breaks up a pass intended for Illinois running back Josh Ferguson (6) during the first half of an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013, in Champaign, Ill. (AP Photo/Jeff Haynes)

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Updated: November 30, 2013 8:25PM



CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — There was no more fitting way for the season to end. That goes for both Northwestern and Illinois.

The Wildcats (5-7, 1-7 Big Ten) probably were far too good to go through an entire conference slate without celebrating even once.

The Illini (4-8, 1-7 Big Ten) probably weren’t good enough to finish one victory shy of a .500 record and bowl eligibility.

And this matchup, it much be said, wasn’t good enough to make many people care.

A less-than-half-full crowd watched NU eke out a 37-34 win that, quite frankly, will go unnoticed around the rest of the country. Not because the enormously important Alabama-Auburn game was riveting, which it was. Not because the Ohio State-Michigan game was an absolute classic, which it was.

Other than allowing Pat Fitzgerald and his Wildcats to feel halfway decent about themselves heading into the long, cold winter, this one really just didn’t matter.

Unless Illini coach Tim Beckman gets fired, that is, but really? It would come as a huge surprise at this point.

The game didn’t pass without some very notable accomplishments. Northwestern’s passing attack produced monster numbers from Trevor Siemian (31-of-44 for 414 yards and four touchdowns), Christian Jones (13 catches, 182 yards, two TDs) and Rashad Lawrence (five catches, 112 yards, one touchdown).

Illinois senior quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase, who passed for 307 yards and rushed for 55 more, became his school’s career leader in total offense, surpassing Juice Williams’ mark of 10,594.

Fellow Illini senior Steve Hull caught 13 passes for 155 yards and a touchdown, ending the season on a November tear during which he was as impressive statistically as any player in the country.

Email: sgreenberg@suntimes.com

Twitter: @slgreenberg



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