Minnesota defeats Illinois 40-17, remain undefeated in 2019

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The Minnesota Golden Gophers entered the game with a 4-0 record after they squeeked out a victory against the Purdue Boilermakers in their Big Ten season opener. They returned home and this was a special homecoming day match against the Illini.

Last year when the teams met it was Illinois who crushed the Gophers’ spirits in a 55-31 drubbing at the hands of Reggie Corbin and the Illini offense. This meeting would see the roles flipped. It was the Minnesota running backs that wore down the Illini defense leading to a 40-17 Gophers victory.

On homecoming 2019, the crowd was silenced at TCF Bank Stadium when Illinois intercepted Tanner Morgan and returned it for a touchdown. The Gophers struck back when Antoine Winfield Jr. intercepted the ball at around the Illini 25 and returned it back to the 13 yardline. The offense went three and out, settling for a dissapointing field goal after the interception.

Rodney Smith picks up 64 yards in the second quarter. Photo by Matt Blewett.

It was Minnesota running back Rodney Smith who had a career day with 211 yards with the other half of the rushing tandem, Shannon Brooks, adding 111 yards. Both players picked up a touchdown each.

In the passing game, quarterback Tanner Morgan completed 9 of 17 passes for 155 yards, connecting three times for touchdowns to Tyler Johnson, Chris Autman-Bell and Brevyn Spann-Ford.

You can see the full box score at Gophersports.

It was a great win for a Gophers team that was in need of both a moral and scoreboard victory. Although they have won all their games the team was not tackling well and barely escaped with wins against Georgia Southern and Purdue and have not won a game by more than a touchdown all game.

Minnesota head coach P.J. Fleck said of the victory, “It was the most complete game of the season we’ve played, but it still wasn’t very complete.” He went on to praise the offense for scoring many points but also said that offense scores points for the opponent, the Illini defense scored 14 points off turnovers.

With the win, Minnesota improves to 5-0 on the season and are now ranked in the top 25 in the country.

The Gophers will take on the Nebraska Cornhuskers in an evening game on Oct. 12 at TCF Bank Stadium.

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