Junior running back Reggie Corbin rushed for a career-high 213 yards - including touchdown jaunts of 72 and 77 yards - to lead Illinois to a 55-31 Big Ten triumph over Minnesota on Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Ill.
Junior running back Dre Brown added a 72-yard touchdown sprint and senior quarterback AJ Bush Jr. tossed a 67-yard scoring strike to sophomore wideout Ricky Smalling as the Illini (4-5, 2-4) earned their first win over a Big Ten West Division opponent since Nov. 7, 2015 — snapping a string of 16 straight losses.
Minnesota (4-5, 1-5) received two first-half touchdown runs from redshirt freshman Mohamed Ibrahim (18 carries, 98 yards) and freshman wideout Rashod Bateman (7 catches, 175 yards) snagged touchdown passes of 61 and 86 yards in the final 10 minutes, but Illinois broke open a tight game with three straight touchdowns in the third quarter.
The Illini started racking up their 646 total yards from the opening moments. On the game’s second play from scrimmage, Corbin found a massive hole over right tackle and raced 72 yards for a score.
Minnesota bit off smaller chunks of yardage on its opening possession, but the Gophers’ running game was just as successful as Ibrahim blasted 4 yards for the tying score with 8:31 left in the first.
Illinois’ second possession mirrored its first. On the second play, Brown raced 72 yards through the right side for a score that gave Illinois a lead it wouldn’t relinquish. Brown’s sprint also gave the Illini two 70-yard-plus rushing gains in the same game for the first time since Oct. 21, 1944.
Minnesota slashed Illinois’ lead to 17-14 on Ibrahim’s 1-yard touchdown plunge, but Bush answered with a short slant to Smalling that he transformed into a 67-yard touchdown with 7:48 left in the half. Bush finished 18 of 25 for 216 passing yards along with 127 rushing yards and two more scores.
The Gophers pulled within 24-17 on Emmit Carpenter’s 28-yard field goal with six seconds left in the half set up by an Illinois turnover. Bush, backpedaling to avoid a sack, tossed an interception off his back foot to Minnesota sophomore corner Coney Durr at the 49-yard line with 39 seconds left.
Minnesota received the second-half kickoff, but Illinois seized the momentum shortly thereafter with two touchdowns in 58 seconds.
Bush scored untouched on a 3-yard keeper to push Illinois’ lead to 31-17 with 10:12 left in the third, then senior linebacker Del’Shawn Phillips forced a fumble by Wildcat quarterback Seth Green that defensive tackle Kenyon Jackson recovered at Minnesota’s 30. One play later, Bush flipped a short pass to freshman tight end Daniel Barker that he turned into his first collegiate touchdown — a 30-yard score that made it 38-17 with 9:14 to go in the third.
Corbin broke free for a 77-yard score — his seventh rush in excess of 50 yards this season — to take a 45-17 lead with 4:07 left in the third.
—Field Level Media