Illini football season comes to a crashing halt

CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) -- The Land of Lincoln trophy is staying in the Windy City. And so are the braggin’ rights for the state’s best Big Ten team but that hasn’t been in question for years. Northwestern beat Illinois 42-7 Saturday in Champaign.

The Illini finish the season 2-10, and 0-9 in the Big Ten, losing their final 10 ballgames. Lovie Smith is the fourth Illini head coach in a row to go winless in the Big Ten.

The Land of Lincoln trophy is staying in the Windy City. And so are the braggin’ rights for the state’s best Big Ten team but that hasn’t been in question for years.

The Wildcats have now won five out of the last six games against the Illini dating back to 2012. And the two program’s couldn’t be any more different at this point. Northwestern has now won seven straight games, their longest streak since 1996, they’re heading to a bowl game for the third year in a row. The Illini finish the season losing 10 straight. They go 0-for-9 in the Big Ten. Lovie Smith becomes the fourth straight Illini coach to fail to win a conference game in a season — Ron Turner, Ron Zook and Tim Beckman did it in their first year in Champaign, Smith does it in his second.

“We've put a lot into it and you want to see better results but this is where we are," Lovie Smith said. "Hard work doesn't guarantee success or a certain amount of wins or anything like but you can't have success unless you put hard work into it."

"It'll pay off, we'll be back. We'll be back strong," Del'shawn Phillips added. "Everybody had their laugh this year, we'll get ours next year."

The numbers speak for themselves, Illinois was the youngest team in the nation this season, starting 16 true freshmen. That youth was on full display against Northwestern. After taking a first quarter lead, the Illini didn’t score the rest of the way, allowing 42 unanswered points.

"I believe and trust in the process with the younger guys and the coaching staff," Jaylon Dunlap explained. "We have a great future and I really believe that."

Now the attention turns to recruiting and adding more players. Illinois has 15 commits in the 2018 class right now, they’re looking to add at least a handful more. Early signing day is about three and a half weeks away.
 


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