Gophers eligible to go bowling once more

With a 6-1 record, the Gophers are bowl eligible for the eighth time in ten years. The Gophers are one of four bowl eligible teams in the Big Ten, while Northwestern is one win away. If no Big Ten team goes to the national championship, up to seven teams from the conference can go to bowls. âÄúAfter the game the coaches said, âÄòThe Gophers are going to a bowl,âÄô which remains to be seen,âÄù Athletics Director Joel Maturi said. âÄúBut the kids responded, âÄòWeâÄôre not done yet.âÄô âÄù None of the GophersâÄô remaining five opponents are ranked in the AP Top 25 Poll, and they could possibly be favorites in each game. âÄúWhen we all play together, we canâÄôt be stopped, I donâÄôt think,âÄù junior linebacker Simoni Lawrence said. âÄúWeâÄôre good. WeâÄôre a real good football team.âÄù SHERELS OUT Top Gophers cornerback Marcus Sherels was on the field in pads for the game, but didnâÄôt play. Sherels appeared to dislocate his shoulder in last weekâÄôs home win over Indiana, and did not return to that game. The Gophers gave up 462 receiving yards to Illinois quarterback Juice Williams, but held Illinois to just 20 points, which tied for their season low. SherelsâÄô replacement, sophomore Ryan Collado, made an important interception at the end of the fourth quarter as Illinois was driving to tie the score. âÄúWeâÄôve taken this mentality of, âÄònext man up,âÄô âÄù head coach Tim Brewster said. âÄúWe missed Marcus Sherels today. Our best defensive back didnâÄôt play in the game, but the next man came up. We havenâÄôt missed a beat.âÄù Gophers Remain Unranked The Gophers narrowly missed being ranked in the AP Top 25 Poll released Sunday. It wouldâÄôve been their first ranking in the poll since being No. 22 on Oct. 15, 2005. They received 48 votes, the third most of any unranked team, behind Tulsa (84) and Texas Christian University (61). Fair Catch Controversy Lost in the craziness of the gameâÄôs final five minutes was an equally important referee ruling at the end of the first half. With just over a minute left in the half, the Gophers were forced to punt. Justin Kucek skied one deep in Illinois territory, which true freshman Arrelious Benn caught and began to return. Gophers junior Nate Triplett hit him immediately, forcing a fumble, which was recovered by Jack Simmons near the Illinois 20-yard line. It looked like the Gophers would get at least a field goal, and take a momentum boost into halftime. Instead, referee Dan Capron announced that Benn had made an âÄúinvalid fair catch signal,âÄù which made the ball dead as soon as he caught it. The NCAA defines a valid fair catch signal as âÄúa signal given by a player of Team B who has obviously signaled his intention by extending one hand only clearly above his head and waving that hand from side to side of his body more than once.âÄù