Illinois Football Team keeps poise; beats Minnesota 28-24

Workout notes I ran my flat 5.2 mile route in the reverse direction; 10:30 at mile 1.03 and then 12:05 with 4.1x to go; 51:22 total with the final 4-4.1 in 39:15. It was dark for much of the way and the fog really played havoc with my glasses.

That gave me plenty of time to leave for the game and…well…it was the first Big Ten win I got to see in person since 2011. Illinois (4-4, 1-3 conference) beat Minnesota (6-2, 3-1 conference) 28-24 despite being out gained 411-263. Though Illinois lost 1 fumble, Minnesota lost 2 in the 4’th quarter (1 really..the other was on a 4’th down when they were stopped anyway) and an interception. One of the fumbles was returned for a touchdown. Minnesota also missed a field goal, which turned out to be big.

Minnesota did have a long run and had a couple of long passes; one for a touchdown and the other set up another. BUT they missed several open receivers; Illinois felt comfortable staying in single coverage and letting Minnesota try deep passes. I noticed that Minnesota appeared to lack a consistent short passing game; most of their throws were deep.

I made a prediction about the game; that is at the end of the post.

Summary: Illinois did just enough on offense; they used their backup quarterback’s running ability effectively.


Most of Illinois offense came in the first quarter. There was that opening drive of 75 yards for the touchdown; Illinois mixed passing and running effectively. Then there was an exchange of punts; Minnesota punted twice.

Then came the next long Illinois drive, mostly on medium passes; the quarterback ran it in to make it 14-0. This drive included a “pass off of a wide receiver reverse” for a large gain.

Minnesota answered with a drive and a field goal to cut it to 14-3 early in the second quarter; the defenses dominated for the rest of the half. Illinois played it close to the vest on offense and even used their other quarterback a bit; that didn’t work out. On defense, Illinois played a tight gap control defense and dared Minnesota to throw.

The second half turned interesting.

Minnesota got the ball and, on third down, threw an interception that set Illinois up at the Gopher 31. But Illinois went nowhere and fumbled a backwards pass. Minnesota got the ball and was running it for a touchdown, but the ball was blown dead and the pass called “incomplete.” Replay reversed the call, but Minnesota merely got the ball instead of the fumble return.

No matter; play 1 was a 52 yard bomb (single coverage) which cut the score to 14-10.

Illinois got the ball back and promptly marched 75 yards (mixing up the attack) to increase the lead to 21-10.

Then Minnesota regained momentum. They drove it to the Illinois 2. Then on 3’rd and goal from the 2, they ran a fade route to the tight end who was well covered…but the referees called…pass interference? I didn’t see much. Then on first and goal from the 2, Minnesota ran a dive play for a touchdown. It sure appeared to me that the left side of the offensive line moved before the snap.


21-17 it was. Illinois was stopped, punted, and Minnesota needed only 2 running plays to take the lead; one was a 67 yard run and the touchdown was 13 yards around the left side.

24-21 it was and Minnesota had the momentum.

Another punt, another Minnesota drive.


But this drive ended with a missed field goal.

Illinois failed to move the ball and punted again.

But the defense held the Gophers to a short run, came up with a sack to put the Gophers at 3’rd and 14. They tried a safe run; the Illini defense forced a fumble with a strip and a defensive back ran it in for the touchdown!

28-24 with 6:33 to go.

The defense forced a punt with 5:13 to go; the offense didn’t move it, and so came the (almost) final Gopher drive.

Then hit a couple of very short passes and got a 41 yard pass to set themselves in business at the Illinois 26 with just over 2 minutes to go.

But the defense came up huge and got a sack/fumble on 4’th down. A celebration penalty moved Illinois back and Illinois couldn’t quite run out the clock and had to punt; the punt got off and time ran out.

BUT there was holding on Illinois so Minnesota got one untimed play from their own 36; the desperation pass was way out of bounds.

Finally. 🙂

It was interesting; I wasn’t used to having crowds of people still left at the end of the game; it was quite a feeling.

I’ll remind you of what I said last night:

Minnesota is favored by 5-6 points.

Illinois: 3-4 and 0-3 in Big Ten play; losses were to Washington, Nebraska, Wisconsin and Purdue.

The issue: Illinois is giving up 400+ RUSHING yards per game in Big Ten play, and Minnesota is a good running team.

What will happen: Illinois might try to put everyone in the box to get Minnesota to throw. So Illinois will put people up close to guard the gaps…and Minnesota will break several long runs the way that Wisconsin and Purdue did.

Illinois will use two backup quarterbacks and will probably move the ball reasonably well; the trouble is that they might need a TD on every possession.

My call: 31-24 Gophers in a game in which the clock keeps moving.

How we get there? My guess: competitive first half; say 17-14. Minnesota takes a 31-14 lead; Illinois scores the final 10 points to make it interesting.

Afterward the Illinois coach will say things like “we won the last 8 minutes of the game” or “take way Minnesota’s long touchdown runs and it is a different game”, etc.


Note: I am predicting a close game; a fumble or turnover that goes Illinois way might enable an upset.

Yes, I picked the Gophers to win, but I thought it would be competitive. And it was.

What I didn’t predict: I didn’t predict that Illinois would have so few yards and win; the winning score was a fumble return for a touchdown.

(photos via ESPN)


October 25, 2014 - Posted by | college football, football, running |

1 Comment »

  1. […] Northwestern team. This came prior to a discouraging home blowout loss to Iowa. The best game: a 28-21 home upset of Minnesota. The bowl: a most unfortunate 35-18 whipping by Louisiana […]

    Pingback by Football season is almost here! « blueollie | September 2, 2015 | Reply

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