Minnesota 40 Illinois 17: Illini Defense deserved better

Let me make this clear: The Gophers do have a better team this year and clearly deserved to win this game. No argument about that from me.

But when one sees “Minnesota 40”, I can’t blame someone from thinking “oh, another putrid performance by the Illini defense.” And yes, the Gophers did run for 171 yards, but they only had 283 total yards.

Just look at the length of their scoring drives:

9 yards, touchdown (the Illini fumbled in the backfield with no one around them on their first play from scrimmage; it appeared to be a botched hand off…no defender in the backfield).

20 yards, touchdown (the Illini fumbled a punt; the Gophers scored on the first play)

49 yards, touchdown (short punt from the Illini after a 3 and out)

70 yards, touchdown (ok, that one is on the defense)


5 yards, field goal (sack and strip by the Gopher defense)

10 yards, touchdown (Illini turn it over on downs at their own 10)

26 points came by the defense or on drives of 20 yards or less! The Illni defense did not play that poorly.

The problem, this game, was the mistakes, 2 which were unforced and one was a coach’s decision late in the game.

Still, it was 21-14 going into the 4’th quarter and the offense, for all of their miscues, did put together two nifty drives; they especially looked good on their first touchdown drive. The line opened big holes and the true freshman quarterback hit a great play action pass to put them in scoring position.

Overall, it was the mistakes, and I think that part of it is that the Illini are simply too thin to absorb injury losses.

There is a video of the highlights at the end.

But here is what I really want to talk about:

With 5 minutes to go, Illinois had kicked a field goal (healthy 53 yard kick too) to cut the lead from 33-14 to 33-17; it is now a “two touchdown with two 2-point conversions” game. An onside kick failed, but the Gophers attempt to run out the clock (back up quarterback) and the Illini use their time outs to get the ball back at their own 10.

They go nowhere and with 4:38 to go, it is 4’th and 10 at the Illini 10.

I thought that they might punt; instead they go for it and fail. 2 plays later, the Gophers score again to push it to 40-17, which is how it ends.

I really hoped that they would punt but I suppose Coach Smith decided to gamble for the win, even though it was a long shot.

Was that the right call?

I remember the Texas vs. Oklahoma game in 1985. There was just over a minute left in the game and Texas was down 14-7. Texas was deep in their own territory and it was 4’th and long. Texas punted to keep the score down.

Now, that game WAS different; Texas was to finish 8-4 (bowl loss) and Oklahoma 11-1 (national championship). Oklahoma smothered Texas that day; Texas had 70 yards of offense….TOTAL. TOTAL; not a misprint. And in this game, Illinois did have three scoring drives; they did move the ball well at times.

Still, I winced at the final score; the Illini defense played better than that.


Here are a couple of my photos. Note: the announced crowd was 40,000; some arrived late due to tailgating. It was homecoming weekend. My good friend Tracy went with me and it was a lot of fun; she is great company.









October 30, 2016 - Posted by | college football, football | ,

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