The Call: Gophers vs. Illinois
- November 9, 2012 - 9:59 PM
GOPHERS OFFENSE VS. ILLINI DEFENSE
Illinois allows a lot of points, but the Illini actually have plenty of talent on defense, particularly on the line. They have sacked the quarterback 16 times and recovered 10 fumbles, and rank third in preventing third-down conversions. The Gophers will be without receivers Derrick Engel and A.J. Barker, so they might rely on their running game to shorten the game. Advantage: Even
GOPHERS DEFENSE VS. ILLINI OFFENSE
Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase has been injured and ineffective, and the running game, worst in the Big Ten, hasn't been able to bail him out. The Illini are particularly inept in the red zone, while the Gophers defense has noticeably improved as the season has worn on. Illinois has yet to score more than 22 points in a conference game, and there's no reason to expect that to change. Advantage: Gophers
Illini punter Justin DuVernois has 11 punts of 50 yards or longer, but the return and coverage teams are average. Gophers kicker Jordan Wettstein has made eight of his past 11 field-goal tries. Advantage: Gophers
The Gophers know this is their best remaining chance of winning their sixth game and qualifying for a bowl, and they also know they have won three straight in Memorial Stadium. Illinois is playing out the string, and rumors in Champaign say some players are unhappy with the new coaching staff. Advantage: Gophers
Minnesota's defense keeps Illinois bottled up for much of the day, and tailbacks Rodrick Williams and Donnell Kirkwood find ways to get past Illinois' front four. The game remains close, but no comeback is needed as Jerry Kill wins his first Big Ten road game.
NUMBERS TO KNOW
Minnesota's rushing yardage against Illinois last season
Turnover margin by Gophers in Big Ten games, worst ratio in conference
DON'T FORGET ABOUT
Senior kick returner needs only 159 yards to break NCAA record for career return yardage.
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