CHAMPAIGN, ILLINOIS – Thud.
That’s the sound of the Gophers season slamming into a brick wall. We should have known better than to believe this team might be different.
Saturday’s game was supposed to be a final tune-up for the Gophers before the grind of November hit.
Instead, the Gophers looked asleep for the first half and coughed up a late lead to lose 28-24 to an Illinois team that entered the game 0-3 in the Big Ten.
The Gophers had visions of returning home 7-1, 4-0 in the Big Ten with a pivotal four-game stretch on tap, starting with Iowa in two weeks.
And now? Yawn.
The Gophers had a chance to win after moving the ball to the Illinois’ 26-yard line. But Mitch Leidner threw three incompletions and then was sacked and fumbled on fourth down.
Leidner’s performance was all over the map. He completed a few big plays in the third quarter to give his team a spark. But he threw the ball wildly and made poor decisions in the pocket to kill any momentum.
David Cobb fumbled on third-and-long with 6½ minutes left in the fourth quarter and Illinois cornerback V’Angelo Bentley scooped it up and ran 15 yards for a touchdown to give Illinois the lead for good.
The Gophers were awful offensively in the first half, managing only 3 points and 86 total yards against the Big Ten’s worst defense. Illinois gave up, on average, 40.3 points and 402.7 yards rushing in its first three conference games.