Illini grade vs. Gophers: D
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Minnesota’s Donnell Kirkwood
Sophomore became the fifth Big Ten player to gain 100 yards against the Illini. But none of them have hit Kirkwood’s 152 yards. And he scored both touchdowns while serving as most of Minnesota’s offense on Bowl Eligibility Day.
Minnesota B-, Illinois D+
Freshman quarterback Philip Nelson wasn’t asked to do more than manage the game. Mission accomplished. Nathan Scheelhaase cost his team possessions with a pair of turnovers as Illinois failed to hit double digits for the third time in six Big Ten games.
Minnesota B+, Illinois C
Coming off the lopsided loss to Michigan, the Gophers controlled Illinois in critical third-down situations, limiting Illinois to 4 of 14. And they stuffed the one fourth-down attempt by the Illini. Mason Monheim showed again why he got on the field so early for the Illini.
Minnesota B, Illinois B+
Neither team missed a kick. Both teams averaged 40-plus yards punting on a windy day. But give Illinois a small edge thanks to another long kickoff return, this time by Ryan Lankford. Terry Hawthorne’s work is rubbing off.
Minnesota B, Illinois D
Don’t be offended, Gophers, the grade stands for Bowl. Yes, that was Minnesota celebrating eligibility with its fans in the corner of Memorial Stadium. Not something you expected to see going into the season. Illinois is down to one home chance to win a Big Ten game.