Gopher Football had an awful season but once again they finished the season on a high note, sending their seniors off with a win. Last year was a huge win over Iowa in the final game of the season, this year it was a dominating win over Illinois. This was the first game in recent memory where the Gophers were in control nearly from start to finish.
We have seen a lot of lopsided games but it has been a long time since we saw a Gopher win like this over a Big Ten opponent. Some of these numbers astound me.
- First 20 point win over a Big Ten team since beating Indiana in 2006.
- A streak of 23 straight games allowing 17+ points was snapped.
- This was the first time in 41 games where did not trail.
Clearly Illinois did not come to Minneapolis ready to play football. They were going through the motions and played with very little heart. But that is their own fault. The Gophers on the other hand were having fun, hitting hard and playing to send their seniors off with a win in the final game of their career.
The gameball today goes to the entire defense. The past few games we have thought the defense has played better, they have played well but in all those times there were instances of significant breakdowns and plays that remind us this defense still has a very long way to go because there are too many holes to fill. But that didn't happen today. The defense held Illinois to 18 yards at halftime and zero points. The second half saw the Illini gain more yards but it took a drive with a fake punt to get their lone score of the game. Their longest play from scrimmage as 14 yards. The defense had eight tackles for losses and five sacks. A number of guys stepped up to make some big plays including, but not limited to, RaShede Hageman, Kim Royston, Kyle Henderson, Brock Vereen, Gary Tinsley and Keanon Cooper. It was a team effort and a prime example of guys getting better.
Offensively it has been even more impressive to see the offensive line and MarQueise Gray getting better over the last several games. Gray's passing numbers were very weak but his receivers did very little to help him out and he nearly broke his own single-game record.
Loved this game and loved the effort. This season was a long one that was sometimes hard to watch, but I think the program is headed in the right direction. While this is a great win for the Gophers, there is another history lesson to be learned here. Playing well and even winning to end the season may not mean anything for next year. Clearly the momentum and positivity from last year's wins over Illinois and Iowa did nothing for 2011. But we will cover 2012 in the future, for now enjoy the win Gopher fans.