Illinois Football: Top 5 Illini wins in the Lovie Smith era

IOWA CITY, IOWA- NOVEMBER 23: Head coach Lovie Smith of the Illinois Fighting Illini before the match-up against the Iowa Hawkeyes, on November 23, 2019 at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa. (Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images)
IOWA CITY, IOWA- NOVEMBER 23: Head coach Lovie Smith of the Illinois Fighting Illini before the match-up against the Iowa Hawkeyes, on November 23, 2019 at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa. (Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images) /
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COLLEGE PARK, MD – OCTOBER 27: Illinois Fighting Illini on the field before a college football game against the Maryland Terrapins at Capitol One Field at Maryland Stadium on October 27, 2018 at College Park, Maryland. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** /

3. Illinois vs Minnesota – 2018

This game was just a scratch on the surface of what an Illinois squad could be with Lovie Smith leading. This was one of the most complete games the Illini have played under Lovie. Both the offense and defense played great in this game.

Not even two minutes into the game, Illinois was able to score. Reggie Corbin busted through the Minnesota defense for a 72-yard touchdown, which put the Illini up 7-0. Soon after, Minnesota drove down the field and scored. With the score tied at 7-7, Dre Brown broke loose for a 72-yard touchdown to put Illinois up 14-7.

After each team traded punts, Illinois managed to put together a drive that ended with a Chase McLaughlin field goal. This put Illinois up 17-7. The Gophers then put a drive together to get the score back to 17-14.

Three plays after that Minnesota touchdown, Aj Bush Jr. completes a 67-yard touchdown pass to Ricky Smalling, which put Illinois up 24-14. A Gophers field goal would end the half with the Illini having the lead 24-17.

Minnesota punted to start the third quarter, and then the Illini offense drove down the field and scored. Bush punched it into the endzone for a 3-yard touchdown. This touchdown put the Illini up 31-17.

Illinois then recovered a fumble forced by Del’Shawn Phillips, and this is where the Illini started to pull away. Soon after the fumble, Bush connected with Daniel Barker for a 30-yard touchdown pass to put Illinois up 38-17.

Not too long after that, the Illinois defense forced Minnesota to punt. Four plays after getting the ball back, Corbin runs for a 77-yard touchdown, putting the Illini up 45-17. It was just two possessions later that Jake Hansen forced a fumble. This led to a 48-yard field goal by Chase McLaughlin to put Illinois up 48-17. Illinois scores one more time off of a Bush 12-yard touchdown run. The Gophers would score a couple of more times as well before the game ends. The final score showed Illinois winning, 55-31.

This game proved to fans that Lovie can be a successful coach in the Big Ten. This performance gave a lot of Illini fans hope for the future.