Gophers Find Running Game While Destroying Illinois; Move to 5-0 With Nebraska Coming to Town Next Weekend

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It was a dreary afternoon when the Gophers kicked off on Saturday and the game started off about as shitty as the weather. The Gopher were slow out of the gate, especially in the passing game. Johnson was dropping in-the-bread-basket catches and when he wasn’t dropping them, Morgan was throwing them to Illinois for touchdowns. It’s not the way you want to start against a bad team like the Illini…

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The Gopher offense would continue to struggle throughout the first half but this would be Illinois’ only highlight, until late in the 3rd quarter, when their only other TD went on the board, a sack/fumble returned for a score. That’s the only way Illinois scored 6 points in this game. The Gopher defense was dominant against an Illini offense that‘s put up 30+ points in every game, leading up to this contest.

Late in the first half, the Gopher offense started to find its stride. With 4:40 remaining on the 1st half clock, they drove down the field to score, leaving just 1:32 to play. Illinois actually came back down the field though, and after Fleck iced their kicker from 46 yards (he left that kick 10 yards short), he knocked the second try directly through the uprights (would have been good from 56).

The Gophers took a 16-10 lead into halftime but the second half is where the offense went into an all-out sprint.

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The offense put on an absolute show in the 2nd half. The passes started connecting too, but the real story was the running backs, who had been relatively held down all season.

Rodney Smith finished with the most yards by a Gopher running back in a Big Ten game (211) since Lawrence Maroney finished with 258 vs Wisconsin in 2005. Meanwhile, Shannon Brooks let everyone know he’s back and ready to rack up some yardage with his own 111, on the ground. There were chunk yardage plays every time you looked up. It was fun (unlike what was happening over at Yankee Stadium at the same time).

This was exactly the type of victory this Gopher team needed, with Nebraska coming to town next Saturday night. They were 5-0 but their wins vs lesser teams weren’t as impressive as you’d like. That wasn’t the case today. If the Gopher defense can show up next week like they did today, and the offensive line can open up holes that these running backs can squeeze through, the Huskers are in for a shit show next weekend…

And I can’t fucking wait.

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Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan