The Illinois Fighting Illini came into Huntington Bank Stadium and beat the Minnesota Gophers 14-6, ending the Gopher’s 4-game winning streak. Chase Brown ran for 150 yards on the Gopher defense on 33 carries while the Gopher offense struggled to find their footing en route to their 2nd home loss of the season.
Illinois jumped on the Gophers early, scoring touchdowns on their first two drives and taking a 14-0 lead early in the 2nd quarter. The two drives were 8 and 11 plays respectively and a total of 135 yards. It was at this point that the Gopher defense got things figured out and the Illini had three and outs on their next 3 drives, combining for 13 yards on those drives.
But the offense struggled throughout the first half. There were a couple sustained drives that stalled out, resulting in no points. An interception by Morgan on the opening drive, a turnover on downs, 3 punts and a missed 45-yard field goal at the end of the half is what the offense had to show for itself at the half.
This first half sluggishness was a failure with the quarterback and the offensive line, two positions you felt confident you could rely on. Allowing the Illini defense to have 3 sacks and two additional tackles for loss, is inexcusable. Tanner Morgan not seeing open receivers or missing the ones he did throw to, make converting third downs difficult. And the play-calling was baffling with so many deep routes called and taking far too long to develop. It was a combination of all these things that led to the offense getting into the red zone once before getting in again late in the 4th quarter.
The only good news from the first half was that Goldy was spared a lot of pushups.
But keep in mind, this Illini defense was 11th in the Big Ten in scoring and 11th in yards allowed at over 400 yards per game.
The third quarter was much of the same. Neither team was able to move the ball effectively, neither team scored.
It wasn’t until their 9th possession of the game before the Gophers managed to score. On 4th and goal from the 1, Morgan faked to the RB up the middle and kept it on a naked bootleg for a touchdown. The PAT was missed, but the Gophers had finally cut the lead back to a 1-score game at 14-6.
With 4:49 remaining the defense needed to get a stop. They did but not until after Illinois went 32 yards on 8 plays. Eating up over 3 minutes of clock and punting. The anemic Gopher offense had one last opportunity to tie the game, starting from their own 2 yard line.
The first play was a nice 36-yard catch and run by Dylan Wright. But a sack and a Morgan interception ended the misery. On 3rd and 21, Morgan threw deep into a mix of Illinois defenders for an easy pick for Kerby Joseph.
A frustrating and ugly day for the Gophers. Neither side of the ball was prepared to play in the first quarter. The defense eventually did their job. The offense never figured things out.
Up next is a trip to Iowa where the Gophers have not won a game since 1999 when Glen Mason had an 8-4 team.