Wild­cats dis­patch Illini to cap im­pres­sive run through con­fer­ence; now face OSU

Chicago Sun-Times (Sunday) - - SPORTS - HERB GOULD

Ohio State, which em­bar­rassed No. 4 Michi­gan 62-39.

Fitzger­ald said he went over Ohio State tape last week and Michi­gan tape the week be­fore that and came to the same con­clu­sion. He didn’t want to play ei­ther team.

“It was a lose-lose from a tal­ent stand­point, a coach­ing stand­point, a tra­di­tion stand­point,’’ he said. “But we have an un­be­liev­able op­por­tu­nity in front of us. I’m fired up to take the pur­ple down to Indy. The goal ev­ery year is to win the Big Ten West. We’ve fi­nally got­ten over that hump. Now we’ve got a 60-minute op­por­tu­nity to take this team to the Rose Bowl.’’

Win or lose in In­di­anapo­lis, a qual­ity bowl trip awaits. Af­ter a 1-3 start, NU won seven of its last eight games, fall­ing only to Notre Dame.

“I would hope we stop talk­ing about that [1-3 start] at some point,’’ Fitzger­ald said. “I wish the nar­ra­tive would change to them go­ing 15-1 in the Big Ten over the last 16 games and win­ning ev­ery game in the West.’’

NU also can take pride in han­dling Min­nesota and Illi­nois af­ter clinch­ing its West ti­tle.

The Illini (4-8, 2-7), on the other hand, have been to only one bowl since 2011, the year they fired Ron Zook, the first coach to put Illi­nois


Ben­nett Skowronek (right) is con­grat­u­lated by Ri­ley Lees af­ter his eight-yard touch­down catch in the first quar­ter.

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