Cobb takes blame for costly fumble in loss

Senior running back David Cobb scored two touchdowns but had a late fumble.

Minnesota quarterback Philip Nelson throws a pass to tight end John Rabe during Saturday's game against Purdue at TCF Bank Stadium.

Mark Vancleave

Minnesota quarterback Philip Nelson throws a pass to tight end John Rabe during Saturday's game against Purdue at TCF Bank Stadium.

Jack Satzinger

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — As stadium workers emptied coolers and packed trucks, Gophers players filed onto the team bus.

But in the aftermath of Minnesota’s 28-24 loss at Illinois on Saturday, David Cobb was still on the field.

The Gophers running back blankly stared past Memorial Stadium’s tunnel, digesting his mistake.

Midway through the fourth quarter, Cobb broke a run to the right with Illini cornerback V’Angelo Bentley clinging to his leg. Cobb hopped, trying to break free, and multiple defenders pummeled him.

The ball came out.

Bentley got up and ran it in to give Illinois the game-deciding score.

Cobb had a rough start to the game, rushing for just 24 yards in the first half off 12 attempts. The end of the contest was even tougher, and he struggled to get out words to describe the loss.

“All I know is I’ve got to hold on to the ball,” he said.

The Illini swarmed Cobb throughout the game, but he broke through in the second half to bring the Gophers back from an 11-point halftime deficit.

Toward the end of the third quarter, Cobb darted left before cutting up to a hole in the middle of the field and ripping past the Illini defense for 67 yards. After the run, a contingent of Gophers fans raised their hands and bowed to Cobb.

His teammates cheered, too.

“I definitely get excited for him. I see him running down the field about to score … I’m the loudest one over there rooting him on, so I was really excited to see that 67-yard carry,” said linebacker Damien Wilson, Cobb’s cousin.

The next play, Cobb bided his time before bursting to the left corner of the end zone for a 13-yard touchdown run that put Minnesota up 24-21.

The tide appeared to have turned, and Minnesota would have headed into the bye week 4-0 in conference play for the first time since 1967 and as the only undefeated team in the Big Ten West Division.

“I thought we had it in the bag,” Wilson said. “We had the game in the bag.”

The comeback came largely because of Cobb, who has carried the Gophers all season.

Heading into the game, the Killeen, Texas, native led the nation in rushing attempts and was ranked fourth in rushing yards.

But after the game, all Cobb could think about was the one he’d like to take back.

“I let the team down,” he said. “I think we started off too slow.”

Minnesota put itself in a hole with a lackadaisical first-half performance, its defense giving up 14 first-quarter points. With Cobb stymied, quarterback Mitch Leidner struggled to be effective, and Minnesota’s offense only mustered three first-half points.

But one of Cobb’s few lapses this season overshadowed the Gophers’ slow start, and he took it pretty hard.

“I feel bad,” head coach Jerry Kill said. “He’s running hard, and I mean, things happen in this game. I promise you he’ll bounce back, and he’ll be ready to go. I felt bad for him as much as anything.”