STATE COLLEGE – Illinois kicker James McCourt’s 39-yard field goal as time expired on Saturday lifted the Fighting Illini to a 24-23 win over previously No. 6-ranked Wisconsin, and a signature win for the program.
Illinois outscored the Badgers 10-3 in the fourth quarter to give head coach Lovie Smith his banner victory in Champaign.
“In my time at Illinois, this is our signature win,” Smith told reporters after the game. “We have needed a signature win. Against the No. 6 team in the country, we played them toe-to-toe. We saw so much fight and we learned a lot about our guys. One of the best wins you could possibly have.”
Illinois’ 24 points were the most scored against a Wisconsin defense that recorded four shutouts and allowed just 4.8 points per game entering the contest. The win was Illinois’ first against an AP Top 10 opponent since 2007, when the Fighting Illini defeated No 1-ranked Ohio State 28-24.
Wisconsin committed three turnovers in the loss. Quarterback Jack Coan threw an interception and lost a fumble, and running back Jonathan Taylor lost a fumble. Wisconsin committed just five turnovers in its previous six games.
“I’ve always had a ton of respect for Lovie and what their team’s doing,” Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst said. “It’s a good team. We’ve got to do better to give ourselves a chance. Each week, that’s the challenge.”
Wisconsin was believed by some to not only be the favorite to win the Big Ten West but to also contend for the conference crown and a spot in the College Football Playoff. The Badgers slipped to second in the Big Ten West behind undefeated Minnesota (7-0, 4-0 Big Ten).
Taylor rushed for 132 yards and one touchdown on a season-high 29 carries. Taylor, a junior, also eclipsed the 5,000-yard career rushing mark during the contest, making him just the third junior in FBS history to accomplish the feat. Taylor joins Georgia’s Hershel Walker and Oregon’s LaMichael James.
Up next: No. 13 Wisconsin (6-1, 3-1 Big Ten) travels to No. 3 Ohio State (7-0, 4-0 Big Ten). Illinois (3-4, 1-3 Big Ten) visits Purdue (2-5, 1-3 Big Ten).
Indiana quarterback Peyton Ramsey threw for 193 yards and one touchdown in relief duty to lift the Hoosiers to a 38-24 road win against Maryland. Ramsey also added another 47 yards rushing and one touchdown.
Hoosiers starting quarterback Michael Penix Jr. was injured in the second quarter, but not before throwing for 141 yards and one touchdown with one interception. Running back Stevie Scott III rushed for 108 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries. The victory puts Indiana just one win away from bowl eligibility for the first time since 2016.
“I'm just proud of our football team,” Indiana head coach Tom Allen told reporters. “It was really a team effort, all three phases. (Maryland’s) got speed all over the place, and I was just concerned about that. Giving up those big plays in the first half, I thought our defense adjusted well after halftime other than that one drive.”
Indiana outgained Maryland 520 383.
Maryland running back Javon Leake accumulated 158 yards and two touchdowns. The Terrapins dropped their second consecutive contest and have games against three ranked opponents over the next three weeks: at No. 17 Minnesota, vs. No. 19 Michigan and at No. 3 Ohio State.
“A disappointing loss at home,” Maryland head coach Mike Locksley said. “I have to give Indiana credit. Coach Allen and his staff did a great job of having their guys prepared. We made it a four-quarter game, something that we haven't done around here this year, but didn't make the plays when we had opportunities to.”
Should Penix be unavailable next week at Nebraska, Ramsey is a more-than-qualified backup. Ramsey was the starter last year (2,875 yards passing with 19 touchdowns and 13 interceptions) and has started two games this season when Penix was unavailable due to injury.
“(I) don't have an update completely on Michael Penix Jr,” Allen said. “At this juncture, don't know what next week holds, but I don't think it's a long-term thing. We decided for him to be able to hold out the second half and not come back out. So, we'll know more (Sunday), with all that, but the bottom line is it was a really well-rounded group effort, and that's what it takes to win on the road the Big Ten."
Up next: Indiana (5-2, 2-2 Big Ten) travels to Nebraska (4-3, 2-2 Big Ten). Maryland (3-4, 1-3 Big Ten) visits No. 17 Minnesota (7-0, 4-0 Big Ten).
Ohio State continued its march through the Big Ten with a 52-3 win on Friday at Northwestern. The Buckeyes have outscored opponents 231-35 through the first seven games of the season.
The Wildcats managed just 199 yards of offense, including a season-low 42 yards passing by quarterback Aidan Smith.
“I’m proud of the way our staff and the team came out and played,” Ohio State head coach Ryan Day said. “Coming off a bye week, we started the week saying we need to come out of this thing and play fresh. I thought we played with really good energy in all three phases.”
First-year Buckeyes quarterback Justin Fields improved to 7-0 as a starter. He was 18 of 23 passing for 194 yards and four touchdowns and has now thrown for 1,492 yards with 22 touchdowns against one interception this season. Fields has tallied multi-touchdown outings in every start.
Northwestern is still seeking its first conference win of the season after winning the Big Ten West last year. The Wildcats are on a four-game losing streak and won their last contest – 30-14 vs. UNLV – on Sept. 14.
“We’ve got a big next half of the season coming up,” Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald said. It’s been a challenging beginning to the season, but there’s a lot of ball left. That’s what I challenge our guys with. Let’s flush it, let’s leave it here.”
Up next: No. 3 Ohio State (7-0, 4-0 Big Ten) hosts No. 13 Wisconsin (6-1, 3-1 Big Ten). Northwestern (1-5, 0-4 Big Ten) hosts No. 20 Iowa (5-2, 2-2).
Games this week
No. 20 Iowa at Northwestern, Noon (ESPN2)
No. 13 Wisconsin at No. 3 Ohio State, Noon (FOX)
Illinois at Purdue, Noon (BTN)
Liberty at Rutgers, Noon (BTN)
No. 6 Penn State at Michigan State, 3:30 p.m. (ABC)
Indiana at Nebraska, 3:30 p.m. (BTN)
Maryland at No. 17 Minnesota, 3:30 p.m. (ESPN)
No. 8 Notre Dame at No. 19 Michigan, 7:30 p.m. (ABC)