With Northwestern and Illinois renewing unpleasantries on Saturday at Memorial Stadium, I thought this serves as the perfect time to relive the dominant theme from last year's game: Mikel Leshoure's greatness and Northwestern's non-excellent defensive effort.
Without further ado, here's the blog in its entirely. I posted it at 3:37 a.m. on Nov. 21, 2010:
I must be nuts because I couldn't think of anything better to do at 2 a.m. Sunday than to review the tape and figure out how Mikel Leshoure piled up his 330 rushing yards in Illinois' 48-27 win over Northwestern at Wrigley Field.
Was it shoddy tackling? Was it terrific scheming? Was it a high-caliber back exploiting an unsteady rush defense? Or did a little bit of everything lead to Leshoure's date with the history books?
Remember, those 330 yards are the highest total in Illinois history, the highest total in the Football Bowl Subdivision this year and the fifth-best performance in Big Ten annals.
The NCAA lists only the top 20 single-game efforts in its official record book. LaDainian Tomlinson holds the mark with 406 yards while No. 20 is Michigan's Ron Johnson with 347. I'm guessing Leshoure ranks somewhere around No. 40 all-time.
Incidentally, the Illinois state record is held by Bears special-teams ace Garrett Wolfe. He rolled up 353 rushing yards for NIU in 2006 at Ball State. He's 13th on the NCAA's all-time list.
But I digress. Here's Leshoure in all his west-bound glory on Nov. 20, 2010.
First carry: 32 yards. With Scheelhaase in the pistol, Leshoure takes handoff up the middle and slides left. OLB Damien Proby slips and S David Arnold gets juked at the line as Leshoure bounces toward the left sideline, races between two defenders and eventually gets knocked out of bounds by S Brian Peters.
Second carry: 30 yards. Takes handoff off right tackle, where Jeff Allen pins DE Kevin Watt to the ground, and quickly bounces outside right to daylight. Arnold rests a hand on his back at 15-yard line as if he's playing one-hand touch, then CB Jordan Mabin and Arnold ride him out of bounds at the 4.
Third carry: 4 yards for TD. With fullback Jay Prosch offset right in the I formation, Illinois motions TE Evan Wilson to the right side as well. With the numbers in Illinois' favor, Leshoure takes handoff wide right and runs through Proby’s off-balance arm tackle for the score. One missed tackle.
Fourth carry: 9 yards. Big hole up the middle as fullback Jay Prosch handles MLB Nate Williams. CB Justan Vaughn drags him down. No missed tackle.
Fifth carry: 3 yards. Leshoure up the middle again. S Brian Peters hits him high and goes for the strip unsuccessfully, so Arnold has to finish him at the 1-yard line. One missed tackle.
Sixth carry: 1 yard for TD. With 305-pound guard Hugh Thornton as the fullback, Leshoure goes up the middle, meets Williams at the 1-yard line and trucks over him for the TD. One missed tackle, though it wasn’t really a fair fight between Leshoure and Williams.
Seventh carry: 70 yards. Prosch’s lead block erases Williams and Leshoure hits the hole at top speed. Peters dives and gets a hand on his thigh, but has no impact. Vaughn saves the touchdown with a diving tackle at the 3. Hard to say Peters should have made the tackle.
Eighth carry: Minus-2 yards. Leshoure tries to blast off right tackle, but DT Corbin Bryant knifes in and slows him down so MLB David Nwabuisi and others can stop his progress. Technically Bryant missed a tackle, but he turned Leshoure back to the pack so no misses here.
Ninth carry: Minus-1 yard. Leshoure has no lead blocker and bangs up the middle into DT Jack DiNardo.
10th carry: 7 yards. One of his sweetest runs of the day. Initially headed over left guard, he bounces right. When he sees DT Brian Arnfelt in that gap, he bounces right again, finds a little daylight, lowers his shoulder on Mabin and knocks him down before getting knocked out of bounds by Peters. We’ll give Mabin a miss here.
END OF FIRST QUARTER: 10 carries, 153 yards, 2 TDs.
11th carry: 2 yards. Off left guard as DE Quentin Williams and OLB Quentin Davie drag him down.
12th carry: 4 yards. With Thornton again serving as fullback, Leshoure rides closely behind him through left guard to get the first down on third-and-1. Thornton knocks DT Niko Mafuli on his butt after Prosch’s initial chip on him.
13th carry: 4 yards. With Scheelhaase in the pistol, Leshoure takes option dive up the middle behind LG Randall Hunt.
14th carry: 1 yard. Leshoure starts right, but NU is slanted that way and has the numbers. He tries to cut back, but Watt and DE Vince Browne are waiting for him.
15th carry: 2 yards. With Prosch at fullback in the offset I, Leshoure tries to follow him over right guard. DT Arnfelt and WLB McNaul smother him.
16th carry: Minus-4 yards. Leshoure lines up alongside Scheelhaase in the shotgun. Leshoure takes zone option left, but NU slants everyone that way as DiNardo holds the edge and DT Corbin Bryant helps drag him down at the IL 5-yard line.
17th carry: 7 yards. Behind Prosch in the I, Leshoure makes a slight juke to the left as he reaches the line. Quentin Davie dives and gets enough of a hand on him to make Leshoure fall, but only after a good lean and good yardage.
18th carry: 39 yards. Lined up left of Scheelhaase in the gun, Leshoure takes the handoff right. He jumps right, then jumps quickly back to his original path as he sees the hole paved by G Jack Cornell and T Ryan Palmer. Peters tries another dive that doesn’t slow him and S Jared Carpenter has to ride him down. Leshoure limps off with cramps.
SECOND QUARTER: 8 carries, 55 yards.
FIRST HALF: 18 carries, 208 yards, 2 TDs.
19th carry: 5 yards. Lined up right of Scheelhaase in the gun, Leshoure heads left and turns toward the middle when DiNardo closes the initial hole. McNaul rides him down.
20th carry: No gain. Out of the off-set I, Leshoure wants to go wide right but the pre-snap motion brought NU’s defenders over there. Bryant dives and gets first first hand on him. Peters and McNaul and others finish him off.
21st carry: 3 yards. Lined up right of Scheelhaase in the gun, Leshoure heads left. There appears to be some room, but Davie rushes up and tackles him high just short of the first down.
22nd carry. 1 yard. On fourth-and-a-foot, Thornton again enters at fullback. Leshoure goes off left guard and NU gets penetration, but Leshoure leans forward and earns the first down by the length of the football.
23rd carry: 14 yards. Leshoure lines up in the I and starts up the middle, but bounces left. Carpenter gets a hand on him in the backfield, but he doesn’t break down and his lunge has no effect. Leshoure lowers his helmet into Peters’ midsection as he finishes the run to get Illinois away from the NU fans in the right-field bleachers. One missed tackle.
24th carry: 2 yards. Leshoure takes the dive up the middle and Arnfelt grabs his legs and doesn’t let go.
25th carry: Minus-2 yards. NU brings six guys on the snap. McNaul fills the hole when Leshoure looks left, then Peters flies in and finishes when Leshoure turns to the right.
26th carry: No gain. Once again, Illinois motions the tight end to the strong side and NU reacts by sending everyone there. Leshoure tries to hit the right side, but MLB Williams is waiting and submarines him.
THIRD QUARTER: 8 carries, 23 yards.
TOTAL: 26 carries, 231 yards.
27th carry: 9 yards. Another one for the highlight reel. McNaul greets Leshoure 2 yards in the backfield, but Leshoure jumps right to avoid him. After gaining 3 yards, he spins and gains 3 more. Then he turns his back as three NU defenders hit him and he churns his legs while backing for 3 more yards. One missed tackle.
28th carry: 62 yards. Lined up to Scheelhaase’s right in the gun, Leshoure begins by heading outside left tackle. Seeing Davie break down and await his arrival at the 30-yard line, he darts toward the middle and breaks Davie’s arm tackle. He works off a downfield block by WR Jarred Fayson and flies downfield until Mabin saves a TD at the 8-yard line. He takes the rest of the possession off and gets his left foot taped up while an Illini assistant trainer holds up a towel to try to shield the patch job from NU’s sideline. One missed tackle.
29th carry: 17 yards. Leshoure sets the Illini single-game record with a trademark play. Lined up behind Prosch in the I, he follows him through right guard. As Prosch takes out MLB Williams, Leshoure makes a few subtle cuts as Davie and Arnold look bad on their pursuit. DiNardo dives from behind to trip him up.
30th carry: 4 yards. Again in the I behind Prosch, Leshoure tries to follow him but bangs into his guard at the line. He bounces left, spins to get away from Vaughn’s grab and falls ahead as DE Browne comes back to help. One missed tackle.
31st carry: 5 yards. Again in the I behind Prosch, Leshoure sidesteps McNaul’s lunge at the line. Peters grabs him low and takes him down, but not before Leshoure buries his helmet into Mabin’s numbers. One missed tackle.
32nd carry: No gain. Another tight formation with Prosch lined up at fullback. Leshoure tries to slam the middle, but Arnfelt and Peters wrestle him back at the line of scrimmage.
33rd carry: 2 yards. One last run with Prosch leading the way. Leshoure goes straight up the gut, doesn’t go down on first impact, but comes up 1 yard short of his third TD of the game. With a minute to go, Leshoure limp-jogs back to the Illini bench and watches Jason Ford plunge in for the final score.
FOURTH QUARTER: 7 carries, 99 yards.
GRAND TOTAL: 33 carries, 330 yards, 2 TDs.
MISSED TACKLES: I’m going to say 9, but that’s including the ones where Leshoure’s moves made a guy lunge and whiff or barely get a hand on him.