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Illini Live - Football

EVANSTON — Illinois (4-7) hits the road for the final game of the 2018 season against No. 19 Northwestern (7-4). The Wildcats are Big Ten West champions and will play in the Big Ten championship game next week.

Reggie Corbin is starting at running back after leaving last week's game with an injury and AJ Bush Jr. is starting at quarterback for Illinois.

Ricky Smalling catch cuts lead to 8

Illinois receiver Ricky Smalling had a catch in the end zone where he battled pass interference to haul in a 10-yard touchdown to cut the Northwestern lead to 24-16 with 7:57 remaining.

Smalling, in his best game of the season, has seven catches for 72 yards and a touchdown. AJ Bush Jr. is 18 of 33 for 223 yards and a touchdown.

Illinois makes it a two possession game

Again, the Illini had a long drive stall out and needed to settle for a field goal. After a 17-play drive that included a fourth-down conversion, Chase McLaughlin hit a 26-yard field goal to cut the lead to 15 points. Northwestern leads 24-9 with 13:22 left.

Northwestern gets field goal

A 12-play drive stalled out at the Illinois 7-yard line, allowing Northwestern t hit a 25-yard field goal to extend the Wildcats' lead to 24-6 with 10:03 left in the third quarter.

Northwestern has a season-high 212 rushing yards on 29 carries. The Wildcats rushed all but twice on the drive to open the third quarter.

Isaiah Bowser has 166 rushing yards for the Wildcats.

Wildcats get big touchdown before halftime

Illinois played a pretty good first half, but Northwestern is going to go into the break with a 15-point lead. Illinois punted the ball to Northwestern with 1:47 left in the first half, and the Wildcats moved 80 yards on nine plays that ended with a 5-yard pass from Clayton Thorson to Riley Lees for a 21-6 lead.

The Illini ran on third-and-13 before punting the ball back to the Wildcats. The Illinois drive was stalled after Sam Mays dropped a surefire first down and possibly more on second-and-13.

AJ Bush has 132 passing yards and 28 rushing yards in the first half.

Northwestern scores on 11-play drive

Wildcats QB Clayton Thorson capped off an 11-play drive with a 1-yard QB keeper. Northwestern traveled 75 yards on the drive.

Isaiah Bowser has 115 rushing yards for the Wildcats. He entered the game with 580 rushing yards on the season.

Northwestern 14, Illinois 6 with 3:33 left in the first half.

Illinois settles for another field goal

There was a prime chance for a touchdown staring the Illini in the face. Instead, AJ Bush Jr. lost six yards on a third-and-1 from the 5-yard line and Illinois settled for a 29-yard field goal from Chase McLaughlin. Northwestern leads 7-6 with 8:31 left in the first half.

The Illini got two big plays on the drive. The first came from running back Ra'Von Bonner, who converted a fourth-and-1 from the Northwestern 40-yard line for 14 yards to keep the drive alive.

Then on third-and-12, Bush found Ricky Smalling for a dazzling catch of 14 yards to move the chains.

Long Illini drive ends in field goal

Illinois put together a 15 play drive that ended in a 21-yard field goal from Chase McLaughlin. Northwestern leads 7-3 with 36 seconds left in the first quarter.

AJ Bush Jr. has been plenty accurate early on. He's 8 of 12 for 97 yards. Reggie Corbin looks healthy and has 24 rushing yards. 

Illinois had first-and-goal at the Northwestern 2-yard line before stalling out.

Sam Mays has three catches for 41 yards and Ricky Smalling has three catches for 38 yards.

Northwestern scores first

The Wildcats traveled 92 yards on nine plays that ended with an 8-yard touchdown pass from Clayton Thorson to Bennett Skowronek for the first touchdown on the game.

Illinois allowed 84 rushing yards on the drive, 72 from Isaiah Bowser.

Northwestern 7, Illinois 0 5:53 left in the first quarter.

First drive moves, then stalls

Illinois picked up 59 yards of offense on the first drive, but also had 25 yards worth of penalties to keep points off the board. The worst was an offensive pass interference penalty called on Daniel Barker to erase a first down and force the Illini into a third-and-long, which they didn't convert.

We're scoreless with 9:18 left in the first quarter.

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Contact Joey Wagner at (217) 421-6970. Follow him on Twitter: @mrwagner25

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Reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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