Haltime Thoughts: Minnesota at Illinois

by Austin Cumblad

Minnesota is playing Illinois, right? The team that put up 34 points in the first half last year at the Metrodome? The reason I ask is because you really can’t tell. The Gophers have held the Illini to three points after two quarters, and this packed house at Memorial Stadium is pretty subdued at the moment. Minnesota leads 7-3. A couple notes: -Personal foul penalties are running rampant. Gophers defensive end Willie VanDeSteeg and Illinois wide receiver Arrelious Benn got tangled up, exchanged shoves and were hit with offsetting roughness penalties. Deon Hightower was slapped with a late hit penalty for lowering his shoulder and leveling Juice Williams after he stepped out of bounds on an eight yard scramble. There were a pair of off-setting personal fouls in the first quarter as well, a clipping penalty of Ralph Spry during the Gophers’ first drive and a Deleon Eskridge had his face mask grabbed by Martez Wilson three plays before that. -Benn returns punts for the Illini too, but apparently hasn’t learned how to signal or not signal for a fair catch. When receiving his first punt of the game, Benn waved his arm but never above shoulder level (which is required to signal a fair catch). Nevertheless, the refs blew the play dead, saying the signal was adequate. Benn protested to no avail. Near the end of the second quarter, Benn made an identical motion but this time the refs let play continue. Benn was hit five yards later by Nate Triplett, the ball came loose and Jack Simmons pounced on it. But hold on. The ruling on the field was Benn made an “invalid fair catch signal.” That means the play was dead as soon as he caught it and instead of Minnesota getting the ball on the Illini 20 with 1:06 left in the half, Illinois kept the ball. The logic behind that rule escapes me. -Finally, a fun fact: the last team Minnesota held to three first half points was Michigan State on Nov. 12, 2005.