When Illinois and Northwestern faced off last season at Wrigley Field, the Illini ran the ball with ease anytime they wanted in route to their victory. Today Northwestern focused on stopping the Illinois running attack, so the Illini went to the air and did so often. The Illini passed for 391 yards and scored with 0:13 seconds left to hang on for an exciting win in both teams Big 10 opener.
The Wildcats welcomed back Dan Persa to the their lineup Saturday. Persa had been out since the end of last season with an achiles tendon injury. The return of Persa seemed to inspire the 'Cats. Illinois scored the first touchdown of the game when Nathan Scheelhasse hit A.J. Jenkins with a 14-yard pass. The Cats would rebound though scoring the next four touchdowns of the game which were all Dan Persa touchdown passes.
Things looked good for Northwestern as they took a 28-10 lead late in the third quarter. Then the Illini offense woke up. The Illinois Offense would score the next three touchdowns of the game to go up 31-28 in the fourth quarter. After Northwestern turned the ball over on downs with just a few minutes left in the game, the Illini got the ball pack just looking to run out the clock.
Well the first carry was fumbled and Northwestern got the ball right back in good shape. Dan Persa was out of the game with an apparent leg injury, so Sophmore Kain Kolter led the Wildcat attack and gave Northwestern the lead with about 75 seconds left in the game.
Illinois would move the ball quickly through the air and score the game winning touchdown on a Scheelhaase touchdown sneak and the surprising Illini would improve to 5-0 on the season. Northwestern fell to 2-2 on the season.
The story for Illinois was Scheelhaase and Jenkins. Scheelhaase would finish his day going 21-32 for 391 yards and three touchdowns. The Illini quarterback also ran the ball for 35 yards and the game winning score.
A.J, Jenkins had a career day for the Illini and also broke some school records. Jenkins caught 12 passes for 268 yards and three touchdowns.
Dan Persa was also solid in his return before leaving the game with an injury. Persa was 10-14 for 123 yards and four touchdowns.
Illinois will play their first road game of the season next week when they head to Indiana while Northwestern will play host to the Michigan Wolverines.