Berry, Pause awarded MLS honors

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Berry, Pause awarded MLS honors

The Fires playoff run may be over, but Mondays start of Major League Soccers awards began with two honors given to Chicago.

The Fire won the first two individual awards, with defender Austin Berry named Rookie-of-the-Year and captain-midfielder Logan Pause earning the Individual Fair Play Award.

Berry, out of the University of Louisville, beat out a former college teammate to become the third Rookie-of-the-Year in Fire history. Nick DeLeon of D.C. United was the runner-up, but wound up far behind Berry in the voting.

"Nicks a very special player," said Berry. "It was good to see a buddy do just as well in the league. We had a friendly competition."

Berry was the sixth player in Fire history to be a finalist for Rookie-of-the-Year, but the only two to win it before him were defender Carlos Bocanegra in 2000 and striker Damani Ralph in 2003. Bocanegra went on to play for some top clubs in Europe and captain the U.S. national team. Ralph moved to a Russian club after playing for the Fire, but his career has been hampered by injuries.

As for Berry, hes ready for a break with the Fire done with its brief postseason training period after the club was eliminated by the Houston Dynamo in the Knockout Round of the playoffs.

"Ill be taking a long break, maybe a couple weeks, but its up in the air as to when," said Berry. "As a rookie youre not ready for this many games. Basically a college season is three-four months."

With the Fire, though, the season started with preseason training in January and encompassed 34 MLS regular season matches, one U.S. Open Cup match and two international friendlies before coming to a competitive close on Oct. 31. Jalil Anibaba, a fellow defender and first-round draft choice in 2011, alerted Berry as to what his first professional season would be like.

"He gave me advice because he went through the same thing," said Berry. "With the season so long, it was mentally draining."

Berry figured to play behind two veterans with international experiences in Cory Gibbs and Arne Friedrich when the season started. Gibbs, however, was lost to season-ending knee surgery in the third game and Berry was thrust into a starting role. He immediately proved worthy of it, scoring a goal in his first start.

Finalists for the awards, which will be presented periodically leading into the MLS Cup final rematch between the Los Angeles Galaxy and Dynamo on Dec. 1, were determined by votes from media, MLS players and MLS club management based on regular season performance. Three rookies were finalists, with Berry and DeLeon going one-two and Vancouver forward Darren Mattocks finishing third. Berry garnered more than half the votes.

Berry was the third Fire rookie to score in his first start and he played every minute of his 28 games, breaking the club record for consecutive starts by a rookie set by Bocanegra.

Pause, meanwhile, took the Individual Fair Play Award, which was based on objective criteria such as fouls committed, cards received and games and minutes played as well as subjective evaluation of sportsmanlike behavior.

In his 10th MLS campaign, Pause was a starter in 31 of his 32 appearances. He committed only 11 fouls and had no cards. He missed just two matches after suffering two broken ribs and pneumothorax in a match against Philadelphia on Aug. 12.

The MLS Humanitarian-of-the-Year in 2009, Pause also served on the board of the directors for the Chicago Fire Foundation, the non-profit arm of the club.

Unfortunately, these will be the last individual awards the Fire will receive in 2012. The club had no other finalists in the other categories.

Watch: Illini present Huskers with signed jersey in honor of Sam Foltz

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Watch: Illini present Huskers with signed jersey in honor of Sam Foltz

Big Ten teams have been honoring Sam Foltz all season long, and Illinois came up with a new way to honor him Saturday.

The Nebraska punter was tragically killed in a car accident in July, and teams playing the Huskers this season have done everything including lay flowers on the 27-yard line (Foltz wore No. 27) and wear helmet stickers honoring Foltz.

Saturday, Illinois visited Lincoln, and the Illini's specialists presented the Huskers' specialists with a Foltz Illinois jersey autographed by the team.

And Nebraska caught the emotional exchange on video. It's a must watch.

It's certainly been an emotional season for Nebraska, but it's great to see the whole Big Ten coming together to honor Foltz's memory.

Northwestern offense comes to play in upset win over Hawkeyes

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Northwestern offense comes to play in upset win over Hawkeyes

Forget everything you thought you knew about the Northwestern offense.

A unit that's looked sluggish through a rough 1-3 start came to play Saturday, scoring touchdowns on three consecutive second-half drives to pull an upset 38-31 win over Iowa at Kinnick Stadium.

Down 24-17 early in the third quarter, the Wildcats scored on touchdown drives of 75, 77 and 80 yards, all the while the defense holding the Hawkeyes to just a pair of three and outs in that same span.

Clayton Thorson hit Austin Carr for touchdowns on two of those drives — Carr had three touchdown catches on the afternoon — and Justin Jackson sprinted away for a 58-yard scoring rush as Northwestern put a two-score gap between itself and Iowa. Even a fourth-quarter score by the Hawkeyes couldn't close that gap.

The Cats piled up a not-all-that-impressive 362 yards of offense, but it was plenty compared to the Hawkeyes' 283 yards. Northwestern out-rushed Iowa, 198-79.

The game started in almost near-perfect fashion for the Cats, with Thorson running in for a touchdown after a long punt return by Flynn Nagel. But the Hawkeyes evened the score shortly thereafter, Akrum Wadley rushing in for a touchdown after a long punt return by Desmond King.

After a field goal, Thorson hit Carr for the first time on the day to put Northwestern up 17-7, but the momentum turned from there. Iowa scored on a short field off a punt, Jay Scheel making a great catch on a C.J. Beathard pass to set up another Wadley touchdown run. Then Brandon Snyder forced a Jackson fumble, and the Hawkeyes turned that into another score, Beathard finding Riley McCarron for a go-ahead touchdown before halftime.

But after an Iowa field goal, Northwestern's offense took over in the third quarter. The Cats got a score to cap a 75-yard drive with Carr making a highlight-reel catch in the end zone. Then the defense forced a three and out. Then Jackson scampered for that 58-yard score. Then the defense forced a three and out. Then an 80-yard drive wrapped with Thorson finding Carr on a crossing route, and the receiver bounced off a would-be tackler to reach the end zone for a two-score lead.

Iowa did score once more in the fourth quarter, Beathard leading a nice 75-yard touchdown drive. But once more the Northwestern defense stood tall and picked off Beathard at game's end to secure the upset.

The Cats looked like a totally different team on both sides of the ball, particularly after an ugly, mistake-filled loss to Nebraska last weekend. The offense was incredibly productive for that second-half stretch, 38 points being the most Northwestern has scored in a game since last September's win over Eastern Illinois and the most scored against an FBS team since November 2014 wins over Purdue and Notre Dame.

The defense deserves a heck of a lot of credit, too, limiting Iowa's offense to just 283 total yards and just 79 rushing yards a week after getting shredded by Nebraska for 556 yards. Ifeadi Odenigbo sacking Beathard four times and doing so in clutch moments, all four of his sacks coming on third down. The Cats had six sacks on the game.

Meanwhile, Iowa continued to have offensive struggles two weeks after falling to North Dakota State and one week after mustering just 14 points in a one-touchdown win over Rutgers. And the defense, as it did in those two games, had more trouble shutting down the run as Northwestern racked up 198 rushing yards.

The win sent the Cats to 2-3 on the campaign, and they have a bye next weekend before a trip to Michigan State.

The Hawkeyes fell to 3-2 with the loss and face Minnesota in the Floyd of Rosedale game next weekend.