Illini bounce back strong against Gophers


Austin Yattoni

Illinois running back Dre Brown (25) celebrates with wide receiver Sam Mays (9) after scoring a touchdown during the game against Minnesota at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018.

By Tatiania Perry, Staff writer

Illinois broke its three-game losing streak with a home win against Minnesota to push its record to 4-5.

The 55-31 victory started off hot on offense with a 72-yard breakaway touchdown by senior running back Reggie Corbin 39 seconds into the game. Corbin went on to collect 213 rushing yards by the end of the day.

He had two 70-plus yard touchdowns, the first Illini to have multiple runs of such distance in a single game since Claude Henry K. (Buddy) Young in 1944.

Head coach Lovie Smith described the senior as explosive and a weapon, but as he nears 1,000 total rushing yards for the season, Corbin does nothing but credit his offensive line.

“I think (the 1,000 yards) would mean more to the offensive line,” Corbin said. “They don’t get a lot of credit, but they know that when they do that, they did a heck of a job. All I do is run in a straight line, it’s not that hard.”

By the end of the first quarter, junior Dre Brown also collected a 72-yard touchdown to contribute to the highest scoring game of Lovie Smith’s time with the team.

Following the resignation of defensive coordinator Hardy Nickerson, Smith took over the reigns to call the plays.

“You look at the NFL, you look at college ball: there are offensive head coaches that are doing what I’m doing,” Smith said, “I don’t think it’s really that different We all became the head coach based on what we did on one side of the ball.”

To start, the defense had a bit of trouble stopping the runs but quickly filled the gaps and stayed on its assignments. After a few mishaps in the beginning, Illinois started to look much more competent and together than it has for the bulk of the season.

While speed was lacking at the safety position, sophomore defensive back Tony Adams stepped up and roamed around the field, collecting 10 total tackles for the game.

“I’m playing alright, but I could be doing a lot better; I’m going to watch some film and just get better,” Adams said. 

Despite the favorable outcome, there were a few calls during the game the Illini and their fans audibly disagreed with. At the end of the second quarter, Adams forced a fumble and senior Del’Shawn Phillips returned the ball for a 67-yard touchdown, but the play was overturned. The ruling on the field was an incomplete pass.

“I was already tired,” Phillips said. “There was no way I was going back out there to play, but the defense did it and I’m proud of them.”

The unfavorable calls could have squashed momentum, but the Illinois defense held Minnesota to a field goal. For the first time in the last couple of games, the Illini were hot with no signs of cooling off.

By the end of the first half, senior Chase McLaughlin made a field goal, and Illinois rounded it out with a Ricky Smalling 67-yard touchdown in terms of scoring.

Illinois didn’t allow Minnesota to have a long possession of the ball and kept it away from the end zone.

Late in the game, the defense fell off a bit and allowed two long runs, but Smith is happy with the improvement and sees where the team needs to improve.

“We are a team that can play against anybody in the Big Ten,” defensive back Nate Hobbs said. “What we just did today, that is just us and who we are. We are going to live off this win and just keep eating.”


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