Illinois 48, Northwestern 27

For the last three weeks, everyone has been wondering why does it have to be so tough to get the sixth win?

The real question is, who knew it could be so easy?

Mikel Leshoure set a school record by rushing for 330 yards to lead Illinois (6-5, 4-4 Big Ten) to a 48-27 win over Northwestern (7-4, 3-4) at Wrigley Field. It was the most by an FBS (former Division I-A) running back this season, and broke Robert Holcombe’s 315-yard record, set against Minnesota in 1996.

The Illini are heading to a bowl game for the first time since the 2008 trip to the Rose Bowl. It won’t be as prestigious, but it’s a bowl game. Lose at Fresno State, and it’s likely the Little Caesar’s Bowl at Detroit’s Ford Field. Win at Fresno State, and it could be the TicketCity Bowl at Dallas’ Cotton Bowl, or even the Texas Bowl at Reliant Stadium in Houston.

Leshoure put the team on his back from the opening gun. After the opening kickoff, he raced for 32 and 30 yards, then scored from four yards out. After a Wildcat fumble, he scored from one yard out. He also broke loose for a 70-yard run to set up a Jason Ford five-yard touchdown later in the first quarter. Leshoure finished the first half with over 200 yards.

Ford finished with 86 yards and three touchdowns. Nathan Scheelhaase added 96 yards, as the Illini ran up 519 yard rushing on 70 attempts. Mike Trumpey had 127 yards on 12 carries and two touchdowns for Northwestern.

Illinois will return to action when they travel to Fresno State on Friday, December 3 at 9:15 p.m. The Bulldogs (6-4) lost to No. 4 Boise State 51-0 on Friday, and will host Idaho next Saturday evening.

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