Gopher Offense Disappears in Letdown vs Illini

Photo: @IlliniFootball – Twitter

If you found Saturday’s weather too warm to hunt deer on Minnesota’s rifle opener then it was a perfect morning to find your way to Huntington Bank Stadium where the Gophers were set to host the Illinois Fighting Illini.

The mission: Beat the Illini and move onto next week’s matchup against Iowa with a possible chance to take command of the West. Unfortunately, the weather was the best part of the day if you were cheering for the maroon and gold.

The Gophers got the football to start the game and it only took two Tanner Morgan throws for everything to go horribly wrong. Daniel Jackson was his target but the ball didn’t make it past the line of scrimmage before it was batted into the air and intercepted.

Illinois would score a touchdown on their short field, stop Minnesota again and then score another TD. Just like that, it was 14-0 halfway through the 1st quarter.

Where’s the offense?

From there, the home-team defense bore down and found whatever remedy they needed to slow the Illini, who wouldn’t score another point all game. The problem though, neither would the Gophers. Until late in the 4th quarter.

Minnesota finally gave up on the run and tried to mount a late rally, using Tanner Morgan’s arm to drive the length of the field and score a touchdown with just 4:49 remaining on the clock. Of course, Matthew Trickett missed the following extra point, making it an 8-point Illinois lead (14-6). It’s worth noting that Trickett also missed from 45 yards out in the first half. It wouldn’t matter.

The defense did get the ball back for the offense but it took way too much time. After one big play to Dylan Wright, Tanner Morgan finished the game by throwing his second interception. The final offensive stats were brutal, to say the least.

Now, the Minnesota Gophers will go to Kinnick Stadium still licking their wounds from this weekend.

Saturday’s loss far from dooms the Minnesota Gophers’ chance at a Big Ten West Championship, but it would be difficult to see that happening after what unfolded on the field today. Iowa, Purdue and Wisconsin all play this afternoon.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan