Minnesota routed again by team with losing record

Illinois scored 24 unanswered points to start the second half and the team put the game away.

Quarterback Tanner Morgan prepares to pass the ball on Friday, Oct. 26 at TCF Bank Stadium.

Tony Saunders

Quarterback Tanner Morgan prepares to pass the ball on Friday, Oct. 26 at TCF Bank Stadium.

Paul Hodowanic

More defensive troubles for Minnesota, another Big Ten loss.

The Gophers’ (4-5, 1-5) defense was unable to stop Illinois’ (4-5, 2-4) offense, letting up 646 yards in the 55-31 loss. 

“This is a very, very disappointing loss … one of the most disappointing losses I’ve been around,” head coach P.J. Fleck told the media.

At halftime, the Gophers trailed 24-17, but momentum appeared to be shifting to their side. They had just escaped a Rashod Bateman fumble that was returned for a touchdown by Illinois after the play was reviewed and reversed. Later in the drive, the visitors connected on a 28-yard field goal to put them within a possession at half. 

However, Illinois scored 24-unanswered points and outscored Minnesota 21-0 in the third quarter to put the game away.

Minnesota struggled to contain Illinois’ rushing attack, giving up 430 yards on the ground. The team was unable to fill gaps and complete tackles all afternoon, which resulted in a host of big plays for the Illinois offense. 

“We didn’t tackle anybody tonight, [we] had people in a lot of holes just diving at the ankles instead of biting the ball,” Fleck told the media. “I think some of the speed on our defense was exposed in a lot of areas where they were able to run away from us and we couldn’t catch them.”

“Execution and tackling has been a problem we’ve been dealing with all year defensively … it turned out to be a disaster, that’s probably the nicest way I can put it,” linebacker Blake Cashman told the media. 

Illinois running back Reggie Corbin ran for 213 yards and two touchdowns and averaged 16.4 yards per carry. Corbin ran for long touchdown runs of 77 and 72 yards. 

Illini quarterback AJ Bush ran for 127 yards and two touchdowns averaging 9.1 yards per carry and did just enough in the passing game to remain a threat throwing for 216 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. 

The Gophers have struggled to stop opponents in the Big Ten this year giving up 43.1 points per game, with two of the last three opponents scoring over 50 points. 

Minnesota’s offense started strong, scoring 17 points in the first half, but was shut down for the majority of the second half until two late touchdowns broke the second half shutout. The offensive line struggled to protect quarterback Tanner Morgan giving up three sacks, as Morgan was never able to get comfortable in his second career start. 

“I definitely have to be better, no question about it, I have to be better … I will be better,” Morgan told the media. 

Morgan finished with solid numbers, throwing for 258 yards and two touchdowns, with 147 of those yards coming on two late touchdown passes to Rashod Bateman with the game was out of reach. 

Bateman finished with seven catches and a career high 175 yards and two touchdowns. Bateman has recorded 100 yards or more in back-to-back games this season. 

In his post-game press conference, Fleck announced the team will be without running back Shannon Brooks for the remainder of the year. Brooks injured his leg in his first game of the season against Indiana last week.

The Gophers will look to rebound next week at home against Purdue on Saturday Nov. 10. The Gophers need wins in two of their last three games to become bowl-eligible.