CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – The plan was for Wisconsin to roll into a showdown with Ohio State next week unbeaten, with a defense putting up historic numbers and a Heisman Trophy contender at running back.
Illinois had other plans.
James McCourt kicked a 39-yard field as time expired and the Illini pulled off the biggest upset of the season, knocking off No. 6 Wisconsin 24-23 on Saturday.
“Our program, we needed to get a signature win. I was just hoping today was the day, and the day came,” Illini coach Lovie Smith said.
Tony Adams picked off a pass by Jack Coan for the Illini (3-4, 1-3 Big Ten), who were 301/2-point underdogs, at midfield with 2:33 left that set up the final drive.
Dre Brown's tackle-breaking 13-yard run got Illinois (3-4, 1-3) to the Wisconsin 25 with 34 seconds left and then the Illini set up McCourt to attempt a winner. The junior kicker was down the middle with the field goal to give Smith the most significant victory for Illinois in years.
No. 20 MINNESOTA 42, RUTGERS 7: In Piscataway, N.J., Rodney Smith ran for 111 yards and two touchdowns and No. 20 Minnesota improved to 7-0 for the first time since winning the national title in 1960.
Smith scored on runs of 3 and 16 yards and Tanner Morgan threw two touchdowns as the Gophers (7-0, 4-0) won their ninth straight game spanning two seasons and handed Rutgers (1-6, 0-5) its fifth consecutive loss overall and 17th straight in the Big Ten Conference.
The nine-game win streak is the Gophers' longest since 1941-42.
The Gophers blew the game open in the fourth quarter, when Mohamed Ibrahim had a 6-yard TD run and defensive back Antoine Winfield Jr. scored on a 33-yard interception return on consecutive plays on offense. Morgan, who went 15 of 28 for 245 yards, scored his second TD, a 56-yard pass to Tyler Johnson that could have been viewed as rubbing it in against a beaten foe.
No. 4 OHIO STATE 52, NORTHWESTERN 3: In Evanston, Ill., Justin Fields threw for four touchdowns and J.K. Dobbins rushed for 121 yards to lead the Buckeyes. Ohio State (7-0, 4-0 Big Ten) did exactly as expected and blew the game open early, jumping to a 31-3 halftime lead.
Fields completed 18 of 23 passes for 194 yards. The sophomore transfer from Georgia matched his career high for TDs through the air. He now has 22 passing and 30 overall on the season.