Illini break records in win over Gophers

By Jason Grodsky

MINNEAPOLIS – If records were made to be broken, then the Illinois football team shattered the record book.

The Illini set a season high for points and total yards in the game with 655, the third most yards in a game in Illinois history, in its 44-17 victory against Minnesota on Saturday night.

Junior running back Rashard Mendenhall’s touchdown runs of 64 and 33 yards gave him 16 touchdowns on the season, breaking the single season touchdown record at Illinois formerly held by running back Howard Griffith.

Mendenhall rushed for 201 of Illinois’ 448 rushing yards, the fifth most rushing yards in a single game in Illinois history. Mendenhall’s efforts moved him into Illinois’ top 10 all-time rushing list; he now has 2,172 yards for his career and 1,316 yards on the season. He is 15 yards shy of breaking the school record for rushing yards in a season.

“It means a lot to be up there with these guys who held these records,” Mendenhall said. “It’s definitely a blessing and I look forward to doing more. We’ve came a long way in the last two years and now it’s showing.”


photo DI multimedia



Illinois dominates Minnesota Gophers

Click to view an audio slideshow of the game.

Sophomores Vontae Davis and Juice Williams got the Illini off to a lightning fast start against the Gophers.

On the first play of the game, Davis intercepted Minnesota quarterback Adam Weber for his fourth interception of the year. Just a few plays later, Williams threw a 42-yard strike to senior Jacob Willis for a touchdown.

Williams added a 22-yard touchdown pass to sophomore Jeff Cumberland to tie his career high for touchdown passes in a game. The Chicago native finished with 207 passing yards and ran for 133 yards and a touchdown.

Williams spread the ball around to five different receivers, but his primary target of the night was Cumberland.

After making the transition from tight end to wide receiver, Cumberland set a season high for receptions and yards, gaining 53 yards on four catches and a touchdown.

“Getting the ball to everyone lets the guys know that they are part of this team and they are contributors,” Williams said. “I just want to get the ball to them and let them perform. It gives them more confidence and gives me more confidence to know I have playmakers around me.”

Illinois’ first victory in Minnesota since 1994 moved the Illini to 7-3 overall and 4-2 in the Big Ten and put the team in sole possession of third place in the conference standings.

Head coach Ron Zook said he was proud to see his players focused on the Gophers and not looking ahead to next week’s matchup against the No. 1-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes.

“This was another step for us and our program,” Zook said. “It was a game that many people didn’t know if we would come out and play the way we were capable of playing. Our coaching staff did a great job of making sure that this game was our focus. We made sure we took care of business.”

With the Gophers buried, the Illini now, can turn their attention to what will be their biggest challenge of the season going into Columbus, Ohio.

But because the Illini hung tough with the Buckeyes last season, they are confident that with another year of experience under their belt, they can give the nation’s top team another tough test.

“It’s a great opportunity for us,” junior linebacker Brit Miller said. “They are a great team again this year and we will be fired up. They have so many weapons but we won’t be intimidated and we’ll look forward to the challenge.”