Gophers lose nearly every statistical battle

The gap between Minnesota and its opponents continues to widen every week.

Luke Middendorf

If John Madden were covering Saturday’s football game, he would have said that the team that gains the most yards and scores the most points wins the game.

Looking at the statistics, there is no easier way to put it.

The Gophers were out-done in nearly every statistical category by Illinois, including the most astonishing stat of all: the Illini’s 665 yards of total offense to Minnesota’s 337.

An even greater gap can be seen in the rushing numbers, as Illinois on the backs of Rashard Mendenhall and company put up an astonishing 448 yards on the ground, squashing the measly 95 yards put together by a group of Gophers.

While it was expected that the Illini would have rushing success against Minnesota because of their average of 241 yards per game and Minnesota’s weekly defensive struggles, highlighted by 300-plus rushing performances by NDSU and Michigan in consecutive weeks, no one could have foreseen the massive output of nearly 450 yards by Illinois.

“They surprised us with some no-huddle. We’ve seen it all year, so we still should’ve been prepared for it. We struggled to get lined up, and they attacked us hard,” said senior safety Dominique Barber.

Coach Tim Brewster gave credit to the play of Illinois following the game, but also said that his guys did not play well on Saturday.

“We just weren’t up to the challenge of stopping those guys,” Brewster said.

Solid senior effort

After the game slipped out of reach for Minnesota on Saturday, there was one senior for the Gophers that looked like he was playing for something more.

Wide receiver Ernie Wheelwright continued to add to his solid senior effort by pulling in career highs of nine catches, 123 yards and a touchdown.

Most of the senior’s damage came in the first half of play, as Wheelwright brought in seven balls for 102 yards before the break.

Wheelwright was often seen using his height advantage of his 6-foot-5-inch frame to shield off defenders and using his long reach to pull down some nifty catches.

The senior receiver added to his career touchdown total as well, bringing it up to 26, good for second all-time in Gophers’ history and five behind the No. 1 mark of 31.

His 123 receiving yards also helped him pad his records, giving Wheelwright 2,315 yards and moving him into third all-time.

Twice as good

After averaging 103 yards passing coming into the game, sophomore quarterback Juice Williams exploited the young Gophers secondary on Saturday for double his weekly total.

Williams put up 203 yards passing on 14-of-21 completions and two touchdowns to help lead Illinois to a 44-17 victory.

Williams also showed athleticism and talent with his feet, adding to the Illini’s large rushing total of 448 yards by picking up 133 yards of his own.