Gophers 40, Illinois 17
The recap: Rodney Smith delivered his fifth 100-yard rushing game of the season and two of the team’s five rushing touchdowns. The Gophers turned three Illini lost fumbles into 17 points, making things tough on Illinois’ third-string sophomore quarterback Jeff George Jr.
What was learned: The Gophers continue to play their best football on the road. Their past two home games were the 14-7 loss to Iowa and 34-32 win over Rutgers. On the road, they lost to Penn State in overtime before 21- and 23-point wins at Maryland and Illinois, respectively.
YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED
• When Antonio Shenault fumbled a third-quarter punt, fellow Gophers defensive back Coney Durr dived to pounce on it. Durr is a true freshman who had been out because of an ankle injury since the Indiana State game. He was one of the most-heralded recruits in this year’s Gophers class, picking Minnesota over Virginia Tech and North Carolina.
“They’re not going to give you a [medical] redshirt year with a sprained ankle, so we had to play him,” Gophers coach Tracy Claeys said. “We’ll get him more involved here as we go.”
• The Gophers held Illinois to 53 yards on four kickoff returns, an average of 13.3. That continued a trend, as Minnesota has the Big Ten’s lowest opponent kickoff return average, at 17.95.
• With a steady wind blowing at 18-20 miles per hour diagonally across the field, both teams had issues passing, catching and punting. Playing with the lead in that wind gave the Gophers more incentive to stick to the running game. They finished with 48 rushing attempts and only 19 passing attempts.
UP NEXT: Purdue
Time: 2:30 p.m. Saturday, TCF Bank Stadium
TV: BTN • Radio: 100.3-FM
Records: Gophers 6-2, 3-2 Big Ten; Purdue 3-5, 1-4
The skinny: Purdue fired fourth-year coach Darrell Hazell two weeks ago after a loss to Iowa dropped his Big Ten record to 3-24. The Boilermakers promoted wide receivers coach Gerad Parker to interim coach. Purdue responded at Nebraska, taking a 14-10 lead into the second half before losing that one 27-14. And the Boilermakers were tied 17-17 vs. Penn State on Saturday before getting outscored 45-7 in the second half. Boilermakers sophomore quarterback David Blough completed 34 of 50 passes for 281 yards, with two touchdowns and an interception.