Ibrahim and Bateman shine in otherwise dreary loss

Ibrahim tallied two rushing touchdowns while Bateman had a 61-yard reception touchdown Saturday.

Wide receiver Rashod Bateman runs after a catch on Saturday, Oct. 6 at TCF Bank Stadium. The Hawkeyes defeated the Gophers 48-31.

Tony Saunders

Wide receiver Rashod Bateman runs after a catch on Saturday, Oct. 6 at TCF Bank Stadium. The Hawkeyes defeated the Gophers 48-31.

Jack Warrick

Minnesota’s defense continues to falter, but the young attacking side of the ball shows some promise.

The Gophers gave up 646 total yards of offense to the Fighting Illini on Saturday. Illinois scored two 72-yard rushing touchdowns in the first four offensive plays, and didn’t let up from there.

“Lack of consistency all around is kind of the synopsis of what I see,” head coach P.J. Fleck told reporters. “It was not a very good football game for us, [we] did not play well.”

The result was a 55-24 loss to an Illinois team that lost its last three games by a combined score of 158-60. Though there was little on the bright side to take away from the game, two freshmen made up for all of the touchdowns in the loss.

Gophers running back Mohamed Ibrahim and wide receiver Rashod Bateman posted each of the four total touchdowns the Gophers had in the loss. 

Bateman scored on back-to-back drives late in the game, when the game was already out of reach. He scored on a 61-yard reception from Tanner Morgan with 9:31 left in the fourth quarter, and then capped off scoring with an 86-yard catch for a touchdown with under two minutes to play.

Bateman tallied a career-high seven catches for 175 yards and two touchdowns, though he picked up most of those yards late in the game when the victory was unobtainable for Minnesota.

“He played extremely well throughout the game,” Morgan told reporters. “Rashod really just stepped up and played to an elite level, and there was no quit at all.”

Ibrahim answered in the first half when the Illinois ground game gashed Minnesota’s defense in the first four Illinois offensive plays. Illini running back Reggie Corbin took the ball 72 yards on the second play, and then Dre Brown took the ball again for 72 yards two offensive plays later, both for touchdowns.

Ibrahim made up for those with four-yard and one-yard rushing touchdowns in the first half to make the score 17-14. Ibrahim finished the game with 98 total rushing yards on 18 carries. 

He didn’t play last week due to an undisclosed injury, and veteran running back Shannon Brooks was injured last game and didn’t dress, though he was on the sidelines at Illinois. 

Fleck said Brooks won’t be playing for the rest of the season.

“It looks like Shannon won’t be around the rest of the year,” he told reporters in the post game interview.

Ibrahim was on his way to a career game with two touchdowns and 95 yards tallied in the first half, but he had just one carry for three yards in the second half.

Illinois defensive coordinator Hardy Nickerson resigned last week for health reasons, the Chicago Tribune reported, and head coach Lovie Smith took over the defensive play calling. Illinois’ defense was ranked worst in the Big Ten, allowing 535.6 yards per game on average before Saturday’s game. The Gophers mustered 438 total yards of offense in the loss.

“It’s very frustrating. It doesn’t fall on one person or one position group,” linebacker Blake Cashman told reporters about letting up a season-high 55 points on defense. “We just need to come in tomorrow, respond to the problems we had, fix those mistakes.”

Minnesota will play Purdue on Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium. Illinois lost to Purdue 46-7 on Oct. 13.