Joe Christensen covered Major League Baseball for 15 years, including three seasons at the Baltimore Sun and eight at the Star Tribune, before switching to the college football beat. He’s a Faribault, Minn., native who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1996. He covered Jim Wacker’s Gophers for the Minnesota Daily and also wrote about USC, UCLA and the Rose Bowl for the Riverside Press-Enterprise before getting this chance to cover football again.
Email Joe to talk about the Gophers.
This sort of game is very familiar to the Illini. But it's new -- and fun -- for the Gophers.
For the fifth time in its last six games, Illinois failed to score in the first half, allowing the Gophers to take their first halftime lead since September. MarQueis Gray has run for one touchdown, passed for another, and Minnesota owns a 20-0 lead after two quarters at half-full TCF Bank Stadium.
Illinois, which has lost five straight games after a 6-0 start, has done virtually nothing on offense. The Illini punted away five of their first six possessions without ever picking up a first down, and their sixth possession ended with quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase's fumble, recovered by the Gophers just 16 yards from the end zone.
Gray needed only one play to turn that into points, cutting inside on a run to the right and breaking a tackle as he romped into the end zone, giving Minnesota a 7-0 lead in the second quarter.
The next score took awhile longer, but the Gophers traveled 46 yards for another touchdown. Gray rolled right as though to run again, then lofted a soft pass to a sliding John Rabe for the score, giving Minnesota a 14-0 lead -- its largest lead of the season.
Field goals of 43 and a career-high 51 yards by Jordan Wettstein in the final 80 seconds before halftime increased the lead to 20-0. Illinois, which had a total of minus-1 yard in its first possession and just 18 yards at half (to Minnesota's 217 yards), has scored in only six of its past 22 quarters of play. The Illini have 3 rushing yards in 14 carries.
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