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Williams helps Illinois cap impressive regular season

Nov 17, 2007 - 10:28 PM CHAMPAIGN, Illinois (Ticker) -- Juice Williams provided quite the jolt.

Williams accounted for 356 total yards and three touchdowns as No. 20 Illinois coasted to a 41-22 victory over Northwestern in the Big Ten Conference regular-season finale for both teams Saturday.

After shaking up the college football landscape last Saturday with a 28-21 upset of then-No. 1 Ohio State, Illinois (9-3, 6-2) entered this contest trying to avoid a letdown.

Earlier this season, Illinois had back-to-back wins over Penn State and Wisconsin - both ranked at the time - to enter the rankings for the first time since 2001. But the Illini followed with losses to Iowa and Michigan.

This time, Williams made sure there would be no hangover as the sophomore quarterback used his arm and legs to provide a nightmare for the Wildcats' defense.

In the first half, Williams had a pair of 1-yard touchdown runs, helping the Fighting Illini build a 21-7 advantage.

On the first possession of the third quarter, Williams rifled a 42-yard touchdown pass to Jeff Cumberland, who made a nifty one-handed catch.

Williams completed 15-of-23 passes for 220 yards. He also was effective with his legs, rushing for 136 yards on 23 attempts.

It marked another huge effort for Williams, who threw for four touchdowns last week against an Ohio State defense which was perceived to be the nation's best.

A program building momentum for the future under coach Ron Zook, the Fighting Illini enjoyed their best season since going 10-2 and winning the conference in 2001. Next up for the Illini could be an appearance in a New Year's Day bowl.

Another offensive weapon for the Illini was junior Rashard Mendenhall, who rushed for 134 yards on 27 carries. His 3-yard TD scamper on the game's first possession opened the scoring.

Illinois amassed 321 yards rushing and 514 overall in snapping a four-game losing streak against Northwestern.

C.J. Bacher threw for two touchdowns and Tyrell Sutton rushed for a score for Northwestern (6-6, 3-5), which lost three of its final four games. The Wildcats are bowl eligible.

Bacher completed 29-of-48 passes for 307 yards and two interceptions. His 18-yard TD to Kim Thompson with under seven minutes remaining pulled the Wildcats within 38-22.

But on the ensuing possession, Williams engineered a drive that resulted in Jason Reda's 50-yard field goal. The senior had converted a 27-yard field goal earlier in the fourth quarter.

Eric Peterman was Bacher's favorite target, finishing with 10 catches for 120 yards.