Oct 30, 2020; College Park, Maryland, USA;   Minnesota Golden Gophers running back Mohamed Ibrahim (24) reacts after scoring a touchdown during the second quarter against the Maryland Terrapins at Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

News Articles

Minnesota, Illinois both desperate for first win

Football players get fewer chances to prove themselves than other athletes. In the pandemic-shortened 2020 Big Ten Conference season, teams’ opportunities to play games have gone down by at least 25 percent.

That makes Minnesota’s trip to Illinois on Saturday even more important for both squads. Off to 0-2 starts overall and in the conference, neither team can afford an 0-3 beginning with tougher opponents waiting in the wings.

“This league is really, really tough,” Golden Gophers coach P.J. Fleck said after his team’s 45-44 overtime loss at Maryland last week. “It doesn’t matter who you play. We were a first down or two away from finishing that game and just weren’t able to.”

Fleck added Monday, “We’ve got a lot of really good players, but they’re just inexperienced and they’re getting experience right now. Especially with the COVID season, you usually benefit from all that offseason work, but everybody’s in the same boat right now, and we got to find a way to be better.”

After contending for the Big Ten West title last year before losing the last game at home to Wisconsin, Minnesota started this season in the Top 25 at No. 21. However, the Gophers’ defense has allowed 94 points in the first two games, and the kicking game has sputtered badly.

In the opener, Minnesota took a 49-24 home loss against Michigan. Last week at Maryland, after scoring in overtime to draw within a point, Minnesota kicker Brock Walker pushed the PAT kick wide right to end the game.

That failure accentuated the Gophers’ issues on defense. A Terrapins team that managed just a field goal in a one-sided loss at Northwestern the prior week lit up Minnesota for 675 total yards. The Minnesota defense hasn’t been able to stop the run or cover receivers.

“So many young players on defense,” Fleck said. “So many guys that are inexperienced … they’ve got to be able to build that leather skin. That’s part of the process.”

Disappointment at failing to meet high internal expectations is also part of the story with the Fighting Illini. With their most experienced team in coach Lovie Smith’s five years, they were hoping to follow a rare bowl bid with a winning season.

Instead, their defense has been strafed through the air. After allowing five touchdown passes to Wisconsin’s Graham Mertz in a 45-7 loss on Oct. 23, Illinois gave up 371 passing yards and two scores to Purdue’s Aidan O’Connell last week in a 31-24 setback.

In two games, the Illini have permitted opponents to complete 49 of 56 passes.

“We have to play better pass defense than that,” Smith said. “We played the run fairly well the past couple of games. Tough loss, but a lot of things to build on for this week.”

The Illini played last week’s game without starting quarterback Brandon Peters (COVID-19), lost Matt Robinson to injury in the first quarter, and Isaiah Williams also was out due to contact-tracing protocol.

Coran Taylor nearly led the team back from a 31-10, fourth-quarter deficit by throwing for 273 yards and two scores in the game, but a potential game-tying drive fizzled out at the Purdue 8-yard line when his fourth-and-10 pass to Mike Epstein came up 3 yards shy of a first down.

“I knew what he was capable of and he played really well,” offensive lineman Kendrick Green said of Taylor.

–Field Level Media

Field Level Media
Sport Writer & Editor
FLM has a North American focus while tying into regional and hyper-local resources – providing the ability to distribute compelling content through the writing of professional journalists. As the U.S. sports content provider to dozens of digital and print media publishers through strategic partnerships with the likes of Reuters and Nielsen Sports, FLM covers the nuts and bolts with a breaking news desk and game event coverage.

Sportsbooks

Rated 5/5

Rated 5/5

Rated 5/5

Rated 5/5

Upcoming Games

Aug 27th, 12:00 PM

Austin Peay

WKU

@

Aug 27th, 12:30 PM

Nebraska -10.5 -107

Northwestern +10.5 -107

@

Aug 27th, 3:30 PM

Idaho State

UNLV

@

Aug 27th, 3:33 PM

Nevada -16.5 -110

New Mexico State +16.5 -110

@

Aug 27th, 4:00 PM

Wyoming +8.5 -110

Illinois -8.5 -110

@

Aug 27th, 4:00 PM

UCONN +29.5 -110

Utah State (24) -29.5 -110

@

Aug 27th, 5:00 PM

Duquesne

Florida State

@

Aug 27th, 7:00 PM

Charlotte +5.5 -110

Florida Atlantic -5.5 -110

@

Aug 27th, 8:15 PM

Florida A&M

North Carolina

@

Aug 27th, 9:00 PM

North Texas -4 -110

UTEP +4 -110

@

Aug 27th, 10:30 PM

Vanderbilt -4.5 -110

Hawaii +4.5 -110

@

Sep 1st, 6:00 PM

St. Francis-PA

Akron

@

Sep 1st, 7:00 PM

Ball State +27.5 -110

Tennessee -27.5 -110

@

Sep 1st, 7:00 PM

Central Michigan +19 -110

Oklahoma State (7) -19 -110

@

Sep 1st, 7:00 PM

West Virginia +7.5 -107

Pittsburgh (13) -7.5 -107

@

Sep 1st, 7:00 PM

South Carolina State

UCF

@

Sep 1st, 7:00 PM

Bryant

Florida International (FIU)

@

Sep 1st, 7:00 PM

LIU

Toledo

@

Sep 1st, 7:30 PM

VMI

Wake Forest (15)

@

Sep 1st, 8:00 PM

LA Tech +16 -107

Missouri -16 -107

@

Sep 1st, 8:00 PM

Penn State -3.5 -107

Purdue +3.5 -107

@

Sep 1st, 8:00 PM

Eastern Illinois

NIU

@

Sep 1st, 8:00 PM

Alabama A&M

UAB

@

Sep 1st, 9:00 PM

New Mexico State +37.5 -107

Minnesota -37.5 -107

@

Sep 1st, 10:00 PM

Northern Arizona

Arizona State

@

Sep 1st, 10:30 PM

Cal Poly

Fresno State

@

Sep 1st, 10:30 PM

Portland State

San Jose State

@

Sep 2nd, 7:00 PM

Virginia Tech -7.5 -107

Old Dominion +7.5 -107

@

Sep 2nd, 7:00 PM

Western Michigan +20 -107

Michigan State (9) -20 -107

@

Sep 2nd, 7:00 PM

Eastern Kentucky

Eastern Michigan

@

Sep 2nd, 7:00 PM

William & Mary

Charlotte

@

Sep 2nd, 7:30 PM

Temple +6.5 -110

Duke -6.5 -110

@

Sep 2nd, 8:00 PM

Tennessee Tech

Kansas

@

Sep 2nd, 8:00 PM

Illinois +3.5 +103

Indiana -3.5 +103

@

Sep 2nd, 10:00 PM

TCU -9 -107

Colorado +9 -107

@

Sep 3rd, 12:00 PM

Sam Houston State

Texas A&M

@

Sep 3rd, 12:00 PM

Rutgers +9 -110

Boston College -9 -110

@

Sep 3rd, 12:00 PM

NC State (20) -10 -110

East Carolina +10 -110

@

Sep 3rd, 12:00 PM

North Carolina -4 -110

Appalachian State +4 -110

@

Sep 3rd, 12:00 PM

South Dakota State

Iowa (23)

@

Sep 3rd, 12:00 PM

Buffalo +20.5 -110

Maryland -20.5 -110

@

Sep 3rd, 12:00 PM

Colorado State +30 -110

Michigan (3) -30 -110

@

Sep 3rd, 12:00 PM

Central Connecticut State

UCONN

@

Sep 3rd, 12:00 PM

Delaware

Navy

@

Sep 3rd, 12:30 PM

Richmond

Virginia

@

Sep 3rd, 2:00 PM

Southeast Missouri State

Iowa State

@

Sep 3rd, 2:30 PM

Bowling Green +3 -110

UCLA -3 -110

@

Sep 3rd, 3:30 PM

Cincinnati (4) +7.5 -107

Arkansas (21) -7.5 -107

@

Sep 3rd, 3:30 PM

Oregon (22) +16.5 -107

Georgia (1) -16.5 -107

@

Sep 3rd, 3:30 PM

Arizona +10 -110

San Diego State (25) -10 -110

@

Sep 3rd, 3:30 PM

UTEP +39 -110

Oklahoma (10) -39 -110

@

Sep 3rd, 3:30 PM

Bethune-Cookman

Miami-FL

@

Sep 3rd, 3:30 PM

North Dakota

Nebraska

@

Sep 3rd, 3:30 PM

Houston (17) -6.5 -110

UTSA +6.5 -110

@

Sep 3rd, 3:30 PM

Tulsa -1 -110

Wyoming +1 -110

@

Sep 3rd, 3:30 PM

Norfolk State

Marshall

@

Sep 3rd, 3:33 PM

Northern Iowa

Air Force

@

Sep 3rd, 3:33 PM

Maine

New Mexico

@

Sep 3rd, 3:33 PM

WKU -7 -105

Hawaii +7 -105

@

Sep 3rd, 3:33 PM

Texas State +11 -110

Nevada -11 -110

@

Sep 3rd, 4:00 PM

Troy +21.5 -110

Ole Miss (11) -21.5 -110

@

Sep 3rd, 4:00 PM

UC Davis

California

@

Sep 3rd, 4:00 PM

BYU (19) -13 -110

USF +13 -110

@

Sep 3rd, 5:00 PM

Nicholls State

South Alabama

@

Sep 3rd, 6:00 PM

Rice +33.5 -110

USC -33.5 -110

@

Sep 3rd, 6:00 PM

Middle Tennessee +4.5 -110

James Madison -4.5 -110

@

Sep 3rd, 6:00 PM

Morgan State

Georgia Southern

@

Sep 3rd, 6:00 PM

Florida Atlantic -1 -110

Ohio +1 -110

@

Sep 3rd, 7:00 PM

Mercer

Auburn

@

Sep 3rd, 7:00 PM

Utah (12) -1.5 -107

Florida +1.5 -107

@

Sep 3rd, 7:00 PM

Miami-OH +20 -110

Kentucky (18) -20 -110

@

Sep 3rd, 7:00 PM

Elon

Vanderbilt

@

Sep 3rd, 7:00 PM

South Dakota

Kansas State

@

Sep 3rd, 7:00 PM

Albany-NY

Baylor (5)

@

Sep 3rd, 7:00 PM

Illinois State

Wisconsin

@

Sep 3rd, 7:00 PM

Massachusetts +31.5 -110

Tulane -31.5 -110

@

Sep 3rd, 7:00 PM

Army +3 -110

Coastal Carolina -3 -110

@

Sep 3rd, 7:00 PM

Liberty -4 -110

Southern Miss +4 -110

@

Sep 3rd, 7:00 PM

Grambling State

Arkansas State

@

Sep 3rd, 7:00 PM

Southeastern Louisiana

Louisiana-Lafayette (16)

@

Sep 3rd, 7:30 PM

Utah State (24) +34.5 -106

Alabama (2) -34.5 -106

@

Sep 3rd, 7:30 PM

Memphis +12.5 -110

Mississippi State -12.5 -110

@

Sep 3rd, 7:30 PM

Georgia State +11 -110

South Carolina -11 -110

@

Sep 3rd, 7:30 PM

Notre Dame (8) +13.5 -107

Ohio State (6) -13.5 -107

@

Sep 3rd, 7:30 PM

SMU -7.5 -110

North Texas +7.5 -110

@

Sep 3rd, 8:00 PM

Colgate

Stanford

@

Sep 3rd, 8:00 PM

Louisiana-Monroe +37 -110

Texas -37 -110

@

Sep 3rd, 8:00 PM

Murray State

Texas Tech

@

Sep 3rd, 8:00 PM

Louisville -4 -110

Syracuse +4 -110

@

Sep 3rd, 9:30 PM

Idaho

Washington State

@

Sep 3rd, 10:30 PM

Boise State +4 -110

Oregon State -4 -110

@

Sep 3rd, 10:30 PM

Kent State +21.5 -110

Washington -21.5 -110

@