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.

Upcoming Games

Dec 5th, 12:00 PM

Texas A&M (5) -6 -110

Auburn +6 -110

@

Dec 5th, 12:00 PM

Texas -7 -110

Kansas State +7 -110

@

Dec 5th, 12:00 PM

Oklahoma State (19) -2.5 -110

TCU +2.5 -110

@

Dec 5th, 12:00 PM

Kansas +26.5 -110

Texas Tech -26.5 -110

@

Dec 5th, 12:00 PM

Nebraska +1 -110

Purdue -1 -110

@

Dec 5th, 12:00 PM

Ohio State (3) -22.5 -110

Michigan State +22.5 -110

@

Dec 5th, 12:00 PM

Penn State -13 -110

Rutgers +13 -110

@

Dec 5th, 12:00 PM

Memphis +3 -110

Tulane -3 -110

@

Dec 5th, 12:00 PM

Toledo -9 -110

NIU +9 -110

@

Dec 5th, 12:00 PM

Western Carolina +49.5 -110

North Carolina -49.5 -110

@

Dec 5th, 12:00 PM

Cincinnati (7) -3.5 -110

Tulsa (22) +3.5 -110

@

Dec 5th, 12:00 PM

Arkansas +2.5 -110

Missouri -2.5 -110

@

Dec 5th, 2:00 PM

Eastern Michigan +13.5 -110

Western Michigan -13.5 -110

@

Dec 5th, 2:00 PM

Bowling Green +3 -110

Akron -3 -110

@

Dec 5th, 2:00 PM

Ball State -3 -110

Central Michigan +3 -110

@

Dec 5th, 2:00 PM

Troy -4 -110

South Alabama +4 -110

@

Dec 5th, 2:30 PM

Syracuse +34 -110

Notre Dame (2) -34 -110

@

Dec 5th, 3:00 PM

Louisiana-Monroe +21 -110

Arkansas State -21 -110

@

Dec 5th, 3:30 PM

Florida (6) -18 -110

Tennessee +18 -110

@

Dec 5th, 3:30 PM

West Virginia +5.5 -110

Iowa State (12) -5.5 -110

@

Dec 5th, 3:30 PM

Indiana (10) +13.5 -110

Wisconsin (18) -13.5 -110

@

Dec 5th, 3:30 PM

Iowa (24) -13.5 -110

Illinois +13.5 -110

@

Dec 5th, 3:30 PM

Boston College +3.5 -110

Virginia -3.5 -110

@

Dec 5th, 4:00 PM

Stanford +12 -110

Washington (23) -12 -110

@

Dec 5th, 4:00 PM

Georgia Tech +6.5 -110

NC State -6.5 -110

@

Dec 5th, 5:30 PM

BYU (8) -10.5 -110

Coastal Carolina (14) +10.5 -110

@

Dec 5th, 6:00 PM

Florida Atlantic +2 -110

Georgia Southern -2 -110

@

Dec 5th, 6:00 PM

San Jose State -2.5 -105

Hawaii +2.5 -105

@

Dec 5th, 7:00 PM

Colorado -8 -110

Arizona +8 -110

@

Dec 5th, 7:00 PM

Oregon (21) -9.5 -110

California +9.5 -110

@

Dec 5th, 7:00 PM

Colorado State +7.5 -110

San Diego State -7.5 -110

@

Dec 5th, 7:30 PM

South Carolina +11.5 -110

Kentucky -11.5 -110

@

Dec 5th, 7:30 PM

Clemson (4) -22.5 -110

Virginia Tech +22.5 -110

@

Dec 5th, 8:00 PM

Alabama (1) -29 -110

LSU +29 -110

@

Dec 5th, 8:00 PM

Baylor +21 -110

Oklahoma (13) -21 -110

@

Dec 5th, 8:00 PM

Miami-FL (9) -14.5 -110

Duke +14.5 -110

@

Dec 5th, 9:00 PM

Fresno State +6.5 -110

Nevada -6.5 -110

@

Dec 5th, 10:30 PM

UCLA +3 -105

Arizona State -3 -105

@

Dec 5th, 10:30 PM

Wyoming -18 -110

New Mexico +18 -110

@

Dec 5th, 10:30 PM

Oregon State +11.5 -110

Utah -11.5 -110

@

Dec 6th, 7:30 PM

Washington State +13 -110

USC (17) -13 -110

@

Dec 10th, 7:00 PM

Pittsburgh -6.5 -110

Georgia Tech +6.5 -110

@

Dec 11th, 7:00 PM

Arizona State

Arizona

@

Dec 11th, 9:30 PM

Utah

Colorado

@

Dec 11th, 10:00 PM

Nevada

San Jose State

@

Dec 12th, 12:00 PM

Michigan +11.5 -110

Ohio State (3) -11.5 -110

@

Dec 12th, 12:00 PM

NIU

Eastern Michigan

@

Dec 12th, 12:00 PM

Western Michigan

Ball State

@

Dec 12th, 12:00 PM

Miami-OH

Bowling Green

@

Dec 12th, 12:00 PM

Ohio

Kent State

@

Dec 12th, 2:30 PM

Akron

Buffalo

@

Dec 12th, 2:33 PM

LSU +11.5 -110

Florida (6) -11.5 -110

@

Dec 12th, 2:33 PM

Auburn -14.5 -110

Mississippi State +14.5 -110

@

Dec 12th, 2:33 PM

California

Washington State

@

Dec 12th, 2:33 PM

Washington (23) +6.5 -110

Oregon (21) -6.5 -110

@

Dec 12th, 2:33 PM

Stanford

Oregon State

@

Dec 12th, 2:33 PM

USC (17) -6.5 -110

UCLA +6.5 -110

@

Dec 12th, 2:33 PM

Oklahoma (13) -10.5 -110

West Virginia +10.5 -110

@

Dec 12th, 2:33 PM

North Carolina

Miami-FL (9)

@

Dec 12th, 2:33 PM

Minnesota

Nebraska

@

Dec 12th, 2:33 PM

Virginia

Virginia Tech

@

Dec 12th, 2:33 PM

Illinois

Northwestern (16)

@

Dec 12th, 2:33 PM

Purdue

Indiana (10)

@

Dec 12th, 2:33 PM

Wisconsin (18) -4 -110

Iowa (24) +4 -110

@

Dec 12th, 2:33 PM

Michigan State

Penn State

@

Dec 12th, 2:33 PM

Houston

Memphis

@

Dec 12th, 2:33 PM

Rutgers

Maryland

@

Dec 12th, 2:33 PM

Fresno State

New Mexico

@

Dec 12th, 2:33 PM

Wake Forest

Louisville

@

Dec 12th, 2:33 PM

Duke

Florida State

@

Dec 12th, 2:33 PM

Tennessee

Vanderbilt

@

Dec 12th, 2:33 PM

Alabama (1)

Arkansas

@

Dec 12th, 3:00 PM

Navy -4.5 +100

Army +4.5 +100

@

Dec 12th, 3:00 PM

Central Michigan

Toledo

@

Dec 12th, 3:00 PM

Incarnate Word

Arkansas State

@

Dec 12th, 3:30 PM

Texas -29 -110

Kansas +29 -110

@

Dec 12th, 6:00 PM

Boise State

Wyoming

@

Dec 12th, 6:00 PM

Appalachian State

Georgia Southern

@

Dec 12th, 7:00 PM

LA Tech

TCU

@

Dec 12th, 9:30 PM

Utah State

Colorado State

@

Dec 12th, 10:00 PM

San Diego State

BYU (8)

@

Dec 12th, 11:00 PM

UNLV

Hawaii

@