The rivalry between the Northwestern Wildcats and Illinois Fighting Illini admittedly doesn’t have the same luster as Michigan/Ohio State, Alabama/Auburn, or Oklahoma/Texas, but it’s certainly delivered some memorable moments.
Remember last year? In the waning seconds of Illinois' 47-14 win, Bret Bielema brought out injured seniors Mike Epstein and Jake Hansen for the final kneeldown.
Or how about 2014’s season finale, when a Mason Monheim pick-six sealed Illinois’ sixth win of the year, while simulataneously eliminating Northwestern from bowl contention?
Then there was 2011 — when Nathan Scheelhaase & the Fighting Illini overcame a 28-10 defecit late in the third quarter to defeat the Wildcats, 38-35, and hoist the Land of Lincoln Trophy on homecoming.
As you’re preparing your next plate of leftover turkey, mashed potatoes, and (hopefully canned) cranberry sauce, let’s take a few moments to look back on one of the most impressive individual performances in Illinois history.
Nov. 20, 2010. The first and only time the Illini and Wildcats faced off at Wrigley Field (the famous/infamous “one way” game) featured multiple record-setting efforts. Illinois tailback Mikel Leshoure devoured the Northwestern defense, running for 330 yards — still a program record — and two touchdowns. As a team the Fighting Illini amassed 519 rushing yards in the 48-27 victory, including a team-record 303 yards in the first half.
Mikel LeShoure is tearing the Northwestern defense to shreds. -- TF— Cover 3 Podcast (@Cover3Podcast) November 20, 2010
Literally eye-popping stat of the day: Mikel Leshoure 32 carries 330 yards vs Northwestern. How do you allow somebody to do that?— 31 Spookage ✨️ (@BoycottLex) November 21, 2010
For some reason 11 years ago, some folks didn’t think it was safe trying to score touchdowns in the east end zone at Wrigley Field when @IlliniFootball played Northwestern at The Friendly Confines. So, Mikel Leshoure ran for 330 yards and the Illini scored 48 running west! pic.twitter.com/RZxWGEKUvj— Kent Brown (@kentbrown) November 12, 2021
Mikel Leshoure #OTD in 2010, the RB ran for a program record 330 yards in a win over rival Northwestern at Wrigley Field. pic.twitter.com/pIuKLru8pE— Illinois on BTN (@IllinoisOnBTN) November 20, 2022
Leshoure finished the 2010 season with 1,697 yards, a mark that — for now — still stands as the program record. Chase Brown needs just 116 yards the next two games to set the new single-season record. Against Michigan last Saturday, Brown registered his 10th 100-yard game of the season, eclipsing Leshoure's previous record of nine, also set in 2010.
Here's hoping CB2 makes some more history against the Wildcats this weekend. Let’s keep The Hat in Champaign for another year.