Illinois football upsets No. 20 Minnesota on the road behind dominant defensive display

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Photo Courtesy of Illinois Athletics

Illinois celebrates after tight end Tip Reiman scores his first career touchdown on Saturday against Minnesota. The Illini beat the No. 20 Golden Gophers, 14-6, behind a dominant defensive display.

By Jackson Janes, Sports Editor

Behind another dominant defensive display and a big day from running back Chase Brown, Illinois pulled off its second big road upset of the season, taking down No. 20 Minnesota, 14-6, the team’s first win in Minneapolis since 2009.

The Illinois defense set the tone early in the first half, with Seth Coleman tipping a pass from Minnesota quarterback Tanner Morgan that found its way right to Tarique Barnes, his first interception of the season.

With a short field, the Illini quickly moved down the field following a 9-yard completion to Carlos Sandy and an 11-yard Chase Brown run, one of his 16 first-half carries. 

After three short Brown runs gave Illinois another first down and brought it inside the red zone, Brandon Peters found Michael Marchese for a 15-yard completion before Isaiah Williams pounded the ball into the end zone from 2 yards out. The touchdown was the Illini’s first first-quarter touchdown of the season.

The Illini defense, using its momentum from the first drive, forced a three-and-out, and the Illinois offense put together another big drive. Despite a false-start penalty on the first play of the drive, something that was an issue last week against Rutgers, Illinois relied heavily on the run game, with the first nine plays all carries from either Brown, Peters, Williams or Josh McCray.

Marching down the field and getting down to a third-and-4 situation at the Minnesota 23, Peters connected with Daniel Barker for the 8-yard completion before finding fellow tight end Tip Reiman for the wide-open 15-yard touchdown on the first play of the second quarter, Reiman’s first college touchdown and just the second catch of his Illinois career.

The defense came up big once again on the next drive. After the Golden Gophers seemed to be getting into a groove offensively, they found themselves with fourth-and-1 at the Illini 22. Down by two scores, Minnesota opted to go for it but came up just short after quarterback Cole Kramer was stuffed at the line of scrimmage.

Offensively, Illinois couldn’t get going despite the defense’s domination, as it failed to pick up a first down for the rest of the half. After the two teams traded punts, Minnesota started its last drive of the half at the Illinois 43. Looking to reduce their deficit, the Golden Gophers quickly got into the red zone on the first play of the drive: a 24-yard strike from Morgan to wide receiver Chris Autman-Bell. 

But, the Illinois defense stood strong, picking up a sack on the next play before a 10-yard offensive holding penalty stalled the drive. The Golden Gophers then missed a 45-yard field goal attempt, sending the Illini into halftime with a 14-0 lead.

After the Illinois offense couldn’t get going after getting into Minnesota territory on its first drive of the second half, the Illini defense looked to continue its containment of the dangerous Golden Gopher offense. Seemingly forcing a quick stop, a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty on Isaiah Gay extended the drive.

Short chunk plays were the name of the game for Minnesota, which got the Golden Gophers deep into Illini territory, though they  eventually faced a fourth-and-6 at the Illinois 22. Once again, the Illini defense put pressure on Morgan, with Owen Carney Jr. registering the sack and forcing the second turnover on downs of the afternoon.

With the Illinois offense needing a spark on third-and-long, Peters found Casey Washington for his first catch, with the Illini wide receiver snagging the 50/50 ball for a 23-yard completion, the team’s longest play of the game. But, after a 12-yard Brown run, a holding penalty killed the momentum for the rest of the drive.

After both teams traded punts once again, the Minnesota offense put together its first big drive of the second half. The Golden Gophers used 16 plays to drive 86 yards down the field, ultimately finding the end zone on a 1-yard quarterback sneak from Morgan to cut Minnesota’s deficit to a score, though after a missed extra point, Illinois still held the 14-6 advantage with less than five minutes to play.

Illinois ran the clock down to just over a minute left to play, and Minnesota took over at its own 2-yard line. But, the Illini defense held its own, with Kerby Joseph making Illinois’ second interception of the day to seal the upset in Minneapolis.

 

@JacksonJanes3

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