2011 Illinois Fighting Illini Football

Big Ten football fans

Illinois @ Minnesota Football Recap

Minnesota 27, Illinois 7


When a 3-9 team feels better about its 12-game regular season than a 6-6 team does, you know something’s up. Yet, that’s the reality for the football squads from Minnesota and Illinois.

The Minnesota Golden Gophers ended an otherwise dismal season on a high note by crushing the struggling Illinois Fighting Illini on Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium. MarQueis Gray rushed for 167 yards on 27 carries to set the single-season Minnesota record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 966. Gray ran for two touchdowns and also threw a touchdown pass. Minnesota (3-9, 2-6 Big Ten) put up 20 points in the second quarter to close the season in fine fashion. A team that had already made November a month to remember by stunning the Iowa Hawkeyes was able to register yet another home-field upset, thereby creating the strong sense that it can be far more competitive next season. Minnesota didn’t find its sea legs until two thirds of this 2011 season had come and gone. If the Gophers can play all of 2012 the way they played in November of 2011, they could very well contend for bowl eligibility and create substantial forward momentum in Minneapolis.

Illinois (6-6, 2-6) is bowl eligible, but has lost six games in a row. The Illini are the first team in FBS history to start a season with six wins in a row, and then lose six in a row. As expected, coach Ron Zook was fired on Sunday. Zook was 34-51 at Illinois.

The Gophers defense held Illinois to just 18 yards in the first half and 160 for the game. The Illini trailed 27-0 before Troy Pollard’s 11-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter.

Illinois rotated quarterbacks Riley O’Toole and Nathan Scheelhaase. The two young QBs combined for just 78 yards on 15-of-27 passing. Scheelhaase was sacked five times.

Minnesota drew first blood when Gray ran 16 yards for a touchdown with 12:40 left in the second quarter. Gray’s touchdown was made possible by the Gophers defense, which sacked and stripped Scheelhaase and recovered at the 16-yard line. Gray scored on the next play. A little later on in the proceedings, Gray hit tight end John Rabe for an eight-yard touchdown, and Jordan Wettstein hit field goals from 43 and 51 yards, to give the Gophers a 20-0 lead at the half. Gray added a 14-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter to give the Gophers a 27-0 advantage. Illinois’s six-game downward spiral was complete, making a bowl-eligible season about as miserable as humanly possible.

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By: Matt Zemek
DFN Sports Senior Staff Writer



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