Minnesota struggled much more than they should have with Illinois, but in the end the better team did what was needed and walked away with a 24-17 victory. The win is Minnesota’s first in the Big Ten, and moves the Gophers to 4-3 on the year. The game was put on ice by a huge pick six by linebacker Jonathan Celestin late in the 4th quarter and from that point on fans were just waiting for the clock to hit zero.
On the less exciting front, this team badly needs a quarterback who can deliver at least a game manager level performance every week. As of now, the Gophers do not have this. I would like to thank the previous staffs for doing such a great job recruiting the position. (/sigh) QB execution was certainly not the only thing we need to talk about tonight, but it was a GLARING issue.
Ok, quick reactions in a bullet point format. What’s that? You noticed GN already did something like this? Chalk it up to a miscommunication in the writer’s Slack chat and enjoy the bonus #content.
- MY NUMBER ONE TAKEAWAY FROM TODAY? There was a lot to like from the team all game, but when it counted the execution was often lacking. Thankfully that wasn’t the worst thing in the world but Minnesota is going to struggle to get more wins if it keeps up. Most teams aren’t going to give up the kind of rushing yards that Illinois is.
- I’m going to predict that IowaGopher has Demry Croft’s performance in the ugly category and if he doesn’t I’m revoking his internship. His two interceptions were REALLY BAD and honestly, he should have had a third in the red zone that Illinois kindly missed. He also botched multiple 1st down conversion opportunities with bad throws. This is the part where we should all remember exactly why he hadn’t won the starting job early in the season. 5/15 for 47 yards just doesn’t cut it. In the midst of all of the mess, you can still see what the offense COULD be if Croft comes to play. And those flashes are very pretty. Here’s hoping we get more than flashes in the coming weeks.
- Seriously though, Minnesota needs a quarterback to step up. The Big Ten West is still weak enough for Minnesota to earn a bowl appearance but not without a quarterback.
- HATS OFF to Kobe McCrary! Dude averaged almost 8 yards per carry. Dude was a BEAST TODAY!
- Defense got it done. They weren’t perfect, but for the most part they were really solid and (stop me if this seems familiar) Illinois’ best drive came on a really short field. Celestin’s interception for a TD was the highlight, but other guys like Merrick Jackson, Kunle Ayinde, Thomas Barber, and Carter Coughlin all had great games.
- The running game looked great a lot, but ugly at other key moments. Consistency from the offensive line is still required. That said, there was a LOT to like today even if it was against a defense who starts a 215 lb true freshman at defensive end.
- Ball is the program. Even with the mess I outlined already, Illinois got all of it’s points off of turnovers.
- WOO RODNEY SMITH!
- Goldy Gopher’s costume game is ELITE!