The Gophers went to halftime Saturday, leading Illinois 21-13.
They padded their lead with a 1-yard touchdown pass from Mitch Leidner to Rashad Still with five seconds remaining in the half. That came after the officials ruled that Leidner was stopped short of the goal line on a QB sneak.
True freshman running back Shannon Brooks had nine carries for 82 yards and two touchdowns, but he also had a costly fumble in the second quarter.
Gophers defensive tackle Steven Richardson, who had missed the previous two games with a strained right calf, started this game but appeared to re-aggravate the injury in the first quarter. Starting right tackle Jonah Pirsig also suffered a left elbow injury in the first half and was replaced by Chad Fahning, a sophomore walk-on from De La Salle.
Illinois fumbled on its first possession and then opened the scoring with a 77-yard touchdown drive. Wes Lunt hit Malik Turner for a 13-yard touchdown.
After sputtering on their first two drives, the Gophers came back to tie it with a touchdown drive on their third. They went all 73 yards on the ground, starting when Leidner kept the ball on the read option for 33 yards. Brooks finished that drive with a five-yard touchdown run.
Illinois regained the lead with a field goal, but the Gophers came back with another big drive. That time, Brooks broke loose on third down for a 38-yard touchdown run.
Illinois kicker Taylor Zalewski hit field goals of 23 and 44 yards in the half.