2:21 p.m. Update: And that’s why it’s Illinois football.
Illinois loses 38-34 in what’s officially the team’s first bad loss of the season. Minnesota scores a late touchdown with 16 seconds left to pull off the upset and secure the Golden Gophers’ first conference victory. Illinois led by 10 at one point in the fourth quarter before all four phases of the game (offense, defense, special teams and coaching) went down the toilet as the Illini gave up several big plays, committed dumb penalties, coached too conservatively, and didn’t finish on some key tackles.
Clinging to a 34-31 lead, Illinois went three-and-out on its two drives prior to Minnesota’s final score, with Ron Zook passing up on a fourth-and-one at the Illini 46 on the first drive. While Illinois would hold Minnesota, Illinois would go three-and-out on its next drive with Paul Petrino dialing up some conservative run plays after an Evan Wilson block-in-the back penalty negated a Mikel Leshoure run down to the Minnesota 25.
Senior defensive back Travon Bellamy really hurt the Illini on Minnesota’s game-winning drive, picking up a terrible late hit and then batting down a pass in the end zone that he could have picked off. Minnesota would capitalize two plays later as DeLeon Eskridge scored on a great second effort after first getting stood up at the goal line.
Illinois is now .500 and will have to beat Northwestern or Fresno State to get bowl-eligible. Suddenly, a bowl game is in serious question after seeming certain. Of course, nothing is ever a given when it comes to Illinois football, so shame on me for making such an assumption.
I don’t know about you but I feel a little bit sick to my stomach when thinking that a pleasantly surprising season could go down the drain following this awful loss.
We’ll see what the Illini are made of next weekend against Northwestern at Wrigley Field.
2:11 p.m. Update: Well, Illinois is about to lose this game as Minnesota scores a touchdown with 16 seconds left to take a 38-34 lead. Illinois shoots itself in the foot today, with Travon Bellamy getting a bad late hit on this drive and the Illini blowing a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter. Quite frankly, Illinois has looked like the Illini teams of the last couple of seasons: poor team discipline and suspect coaching by Ron Zook, who was too conservative in the fourth in my opinion.
2:09 p.m. Update: Illinois leads 34-31 with :28 seconds left but Minnesota is facing a third-and-goal from the 2-yard line.
1:51 p.m. Update: This game is getting crazy. Following a Leshoure 55-yard touchdown run, Minnesota’s Troy Stoudemire just ran the kick back all the way to the Illinois 4-yard line. Minnesota scores two plays later on a 4-yard touchdown run, and the Illinois lead is down to 34-31 with 7:55 to go. The Illini sure aren’t making things easy on themselves today.
1:44 p.m. Update: Illinois has scored 14 quick points in the fourth quarter to turn a 24-20 deficit into a 34-24 lead. Mikel Leshoure just ripped off a 55-yard touchdown run on the first play of the Illinois drive. Jason Ford scored a 4-yard touchdown run earlier in the fourth quarter.
Live blogging has picked up at 13:39 in the fourth quarter, with Illinois trailing 24-20.
3rd and 8 Illinois from its own 37 with 13:12 remaining: Scheelhaase lines up in the gun and hits Fred Sykes over the middle for a big gain of 28 yards. Scheelhaase with a wobbler there.
1st and 10 Illinois from the Minnesota 36: Illinois lines up with five wide and Scheelhaase loses 11 yards on a sack. Scheelhaase kind of backed up into that sack. 2nd and 21 Illinois from the Minnesota 47: Eddie McGee lines up under center, in the pistol to be exact, and hits AJ Jenkins for 37 yards and a first down. That play was wide open, with McGee showing great patience.
1st and Goal Illinois from the Minnesota 10: Jason Ford picks his way inside the five-yard line. Nice run there. 2nd and Goal Illinois from the Minnesota 4: Scheelhaase lines up under center and hands to Ford, who gets stood up and the two but bounces off a hit to fall into the end zone. Great toughness from Jason Ford. Derek Dimke drills the PAT, and Illinois leads 27-24 with 10:44 left in the game.
Illinois takes the lead, 27-24, on some tough running from Jason Ford. It’s time for the defense to hold here.
Dimke kicks the ball into the end zone, where Minnesota’s Troy Stoudemire takes a knee.
1st and 10 Minnesota from its own 20: Adam Weber hits tight end Eric Lair on a quick hit for 4 yards. 2nd and 6 Minnesota from its own 24: Weber lines up under center and hands off to DeLeon Eskridge, who runs for about two yards. Travon Bellamy with great pursuit there. 3rd and 4 Minnesota from its own 26: Weber lines up in the shotgun and Minnesota takes a timeout with the play clock running down. Actually, it turns out that Minnesota was trying to challenge the previous play, which is not reviewable. 3rd and 4 Minnesota from its own 26: Minnesota false starts. 3rd and 9 Minnesota from its own 21: Weber lines up in the gun with three receivers and throws a ball into double coverage to Victor Keise, but the ball is knocked down. Big stop there. 4th and 9 Minnesota from its own 21: Minnesota punts into the wind and Jack Ramsey fair catches the ball.
The Illinois defense gets a big three-and-out. It’s time for the offense to put this game away with a score.
1st and 10 Illinois from its own 45: Mikel Leshoure runs up the gut for a 55-yard touchdown. Dimke drills the PAT. Leshoure hit the hole and got in his top gear there, with no one on Minnesota going to catch him.
Leshoure’s quick touchdown will get the job done as Illinois takes a 34-24 lead on an 8-second drive.
Dimke kicks off to Minnesota’s Troy Stoudemire, who returns the ball all the way to the Illinois 4-yard line. Justin Green saved the touchdown there. This play is under review with 8:02 remaining, with the refs trying to determine if Stoudemire stepped out of bounds. Whatever the case, Minnesota will have the ball deep in Illinois territory with 8:02 left and Illinois leading 34-24. Illinois with a big letdown after a 55-yard touchdown run from Leshoure.
1st and Goal Minnesota from the Illinois 4: Weber goes play action but throws the ball out of bounds. 2nd and Goal Minnesota from the Illinois 4: Weber lines up under center and hands off to Eskridge for a touchdown. Minnesota drills the extra point, and Illinois leads 34-31 with 7:55 left.
Stoudemire’s 90-yard kickoff return has made this a ballgame. Illinois leads 34-31 with just under 8 minutes left.
Minnesota kicks into the wind and Troy Pollard returns the ball to the Illinois 35.
1st and 10 Illinois from its own 35: Scheelhaase hands off to Leshoure, who cuts back three times to get back to the line of scrimmage. 2nd and 10 Illinois from its own 35: Scheelhaase lines up in the pistol and hands off to Leshoure for 5 yards. Big third down here. 3rd and 5 Illinois from its own 40: Scheelhaase lines up in the gun, audibles and options to Leshoure for about 4 yards. If I’m Ron Zook, I go for it here, especially after the Michigan game. 4th and 1 Illinois from its own 44: Illinois will punt, bringing some boos. Santella punts the ball out of bounds at the Minnesota 17.
Illinois goes three and out. Ron Zook passes up a 4th and 1 at the Illinois 44. Santella has pinned Minnesota down at its own 17.
1st and 10 Minnesota from its own 17: Eskridge pops outside but Justin Green makes a great play, forcing a three yard loss with Martez Wilson cleaning up. 2nd and 13 Minnesota from its own 14: Weber dumps off to the fullback for three yards. 3rd and 10 Minnesota from its own 17: Weber lines up in the gun and bounces his pass to an open Eric Lair. Illinois caught a break there. 4th and 10 Minnesota from its own 17: Minnesota kicks into the wind and Ramsey calls a fair catch at the Illinois 46.
Illinois forces a three and out and will have a first and 10 at its own 46 with 4:06 remaining.
1st and 10 Illinois from its own 46: Leshoure rips off a big run down to the Minnesota 25. However, Evan Wilson is called for a hold. This will be a spot of the foul penalty for Illinois.
1st and 6 Illinois from its own 50: Jason Ford gets slammed to the ground for a loss of 3 yards. 2nd and 9 Illinois from its own 47 with 3 minutes remaining: Scheelhaase loses a couple of yards as Illinois is playing close to the vest. Minnesota takes its first of three timeouts.
3rd and 11 Illinois from its own 45 with 2:56 remaining: Scheelhaase lines up in the gun and overthrows AJ Jenkins on a deep throw. Why is Illinois trying to go for the home run rather than picking up the first down? I’ve got a bad feeling about this. 4th and 11 Illinois from its own 45: Santella booms a 55-yard punt that goes into the end zone.
Another three and out for Illinois with Minnesota getting the ball at its own 20 with 2:44 remaining.
1st and 10 Minnesota from its own 20: Weber avoids pressure and a near sack and dumps the ball off to Marquise Gray, who drops it. 2nd and 10 Minnesota from its own 20: There’s 2:38 remaining. Weber throws a pass to the outside that is dropped by Victor Keise. Minnesota is killing itself with dropped passes. 3rd and 10 Minnesota from its own 20: Weber lines up in the gun and keeps the ball for a 29-yard run to the Illinois 49.
1st and 10 Minnesota from its own 49: Weber lines up in the gun and hands off to Duane Bennett for three yards. 1:49 remaining. 2nd and 7 Minnesota from the Illinois 48: Weber dumps to Bennett for a gain of three yards. However, Illinois is called for a personal foul after the play. Travon Bellamy gets a bad late hit call.
1st and 10 Minnesota from the Illinois 31: Weber goes play action and throws the ball the goal line, where Tavon Wilson nearly picks off the pass. Marquise Gray with a great play of becoming the defender and knocking the ball down. 2nd and 10 Minnesota from the Illinois 31: Weber lines up in the gun and dumps the ball to Bennett, who picks and weaves his way down to the Illinois 6-yard line.
1st and Goal Minnesota from the Illinois 6: Weber throws a fade route that Bellamy knocks down. Bellamy could have picked that ball. Another bizarre decision. 2nd and Goal Minnesota from the Illinois 6 with 47 seconds left: Weber keeps the ball and runs the ball to the 2-yard line. 3rd and Goal Minnesota from the Illinois 6 with 28 seconds remaining as Minnesota takes a timeout.
3rd and Goal Minnesota from the 2: Weber hands off to Eskridge, who is stuffed at the goal line but fights his way into the end zone for a touchdown with 16 seconds left. The PAT is good.
Talk about an ugly loss.
Minnesota squib kicks and Bud Golden falls on the ball at the 25-yard line.
1st and 10 Illinois from its own 25: Illinois with an illegal substitution penalty. 1st and 15 Illinois from its own 20: Scheelhaase lines up in the gun and is incomplete on a pass over the middle with 10 seconds left. 2nd and 15 Illinois from its own 20: Eddie McGee is in the game and his pass is intercepted by Stoudemire.
Illinois loses 38-34 as Minnesota gets its first conference win. There’s no need to review this game.