Illini prepare for Gopher’s wrath


Jonathan Bonaguro

Head coach Lovie Smith walks off the field following Illinois’ loss to Nebraska Sept. 21 at home.

By Jared Farmer, Staff Writer

After a bye week away from action, Illinois will head to Minnesota this Saturday for a matchup against the Golden Gophers.

“The things we’ve tried to get accomplished during the bye week, evaluate what we’ve done, personnel schemes, heal up as much as anything,” said head coach Lovie Smith. “We had a chance to get a couple of good practices in, get some younger players going in terms of development. We had the chance to go out and recruit. This is a good week for us. We can’t wait to get back to the game.”

Last time these two teams faced off, Illinois won the match at Memorial Stadium 55-31. The Illini had 430 rush yards as a team and were led by senior wide receiver Reggie Corbin’s career-high 213 yards on just 13 carries.

Coming off of two back-to-back losses after holding a lead, the Illini are facing an undefeated Golden Gophers team. It’ll be their 72nd matchup. The Illini trail in the all-time series history against Minnesota 30-38-3. Illinois is even worse on the road at Minnesota at just 12-22-2.

“They have a scheme they believe in,” Smith said. “It’s not like they change an awful lot. They like to run the football and get some good play-action gain off of that.”

The Golden Gophers are coming off of a 38-31 win against the Boilermakers at Purdue.

Their quarterback redshirt sophomore Tanner Morgan threw 21-22 for 396 yards and four touchdowns.

“He’s got two good receivers, a great tight end, running backs and a big offensive line,” Smith said. “This week is going to be tough for us. Defensively, they’ve been playing good football for a period of time now.”

The Gophers have won their last three meetings against the Illini at TCF Bank Stadium. The contest will also be Minnesota’s 101st Homecoming game, their 12th of such games facing an Illini opponent. Minnesota is 59-38 all time in homecoming games and has won four of their last five.

“We evaluated everything we’ve done offensively: running game, passing game and protection,” Smith said. “Defensively, all of the above. The bye week gave us a little bit more time to sort things out. It’s tough to win it when you’re on the road, but we feel good about how we matchup with them. I know they’re excited about playing us, so it should be an excellent football games.”

The Gophers have averaged 34.75 points in their first four games, which is the most they’ve had since 2005 (35.8). Wanting to limit the effectiveness of the Gopher’s Tanner Morgan, Smith is looking for his defense to put pressure rushing and limiting his time in the pocket.

“We need to play good upfront, try to rush them a little bit and take advantage of opportunities to take the ball away. That’s one of the good things we’ve done defensively, and we’ll need to do that this week,” Smith said. “They played well against us last year. We know who they are, it’ll be a big challenge. We haven’t played our best pass defense, so we need to pick it up.”


[email protected]