Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Northwestern in Party-Crashing Mood Will Wildcats Misbehave at Illinois Homecoming?

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Northwestern in Party-Crashing Mood Will Wildcats Misbehave at Illinois Homecoming?

Article excerpt

In Gary Barnett's first year as Northwestern head coach, the Wildcats won only three games. One of those 1992 victories was a 27-26 spoiling of Illinois' homecoming.

Spoiler no more, No. 8 Northwestern (6-1, 4-0 in the Big Ten) will try to hold on to its share of the conference lead today in another homecoming game at Illinois.

In a sharp role reversal from the past few years, the Illini (3-3, 1-2) will try to derail the Wildcats' Rose Bowl hopes as they hold on to their own slim postseason chances.

The Illini won last year's meeting in Evanston 28-7, holding the Wildcats to 37 rushing yards and intercepting three passes. But Northwestern this year has made retribution for many past embarrassments, most recently with a 35-0 drubbing of Wisconsin last Saturday.

Barnett said that he'd never seen his team play with more excitement than it did against Wisconsin, which beat the Wildcats the previous two years. But Northwestern didn't spend too much time enjoying the win.

"When we came off the field, even before we were celebrating the Wisconsin game, our kids were talking about Illinois. It's still a very, very important game to our players. We have 35 players from Illinois, so this is a big game for them."

Illinois coach Lou Tepper said that while Illini teams of the past might have been lukewarm towards a game against Northwestern, this year is different.

"I think in the past, it's been off and on here," Tepper said. "There have been times where our players have been very excited to play Northwestern, and times when they have not been."

Though Tepper said that none of his Illini teams ever disrespected the Wildcats, their record and ranking has intensified that respect this year.

"This year, we've had great esteem for Northwestern and what they've done. I think you're going to find both sides very intense, and yet I think there's a mutual respect there because our players know theirs and their players know ours."

Illini nose tackle Paul Marshall acknowledged that the team might have taken the Wildcats more lightly in the past. …

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