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News, Notes, Tid-Bits and Quotes from Gophers 17-3 Win at Illinois

11/10/2012, 8:30pm CST
By U of M Athletic Communications

Donnell Kirkwood rushed for 152 yards on 28 carries for his third 100-yard rushing game of the season and career.

SERIES NOTES

  • Minnesota and Illinois met for the 66th time today.
  • Today's game was the 31st visit to Memorial Stadium for the Gophers.
  • With the victory, Minnesota's edge in the all-time series improved to 35-28-3, including a 14-16-1 mark in Champaign.
  • Today's win was Minnesota's third in a row and its seventh in the last nine meetings with the Illini.
  • The Gophers have not lost to Illinois since being edged 35-32 at TCF Bank Stadium in 2009.
  • The Gophers' victory also extended Minnesota's winning streak at Memorial Stadium to four games (2003-08-10-12).
  • Minnesota last fell to the Illini in Champaign in 2001.

TEAM NOTES

  • Minnesota became bowl-eligible for the first time since 2009 with today's victory.
  • The six wins are the most for the Gophers since winning the same number in 2009.
  • Minnesota's six wins equals their combined victory total for the 2010 (3) and 2011 (3) seasons.
  • Today's win was Minnesota's first in a conference road game under head coach Jerry Kill.
  • Minnesota has now won two of its last three games and improved to 2-4 in the Big Ten with today's victory.
  • Minnesota is now 2-2 overall on the road this year after going 0-5 away from home in 2011.
  • Today's win snapped a five-game Big Ten road losing skid.
  • Minnesota's last Big Ten road win was a 38-34 victory over Illinois in 2010.
  • The Gophers combined to rush for 231 yards for their fourth 200-yard rushing game this season. Minnesota is 4-0 this year when topping 200 yards on the ground.
  • With Donnell Kirkwood's 152 yards rushing today, Minnesota improved to 4-0 on the season with a 100-yard rusher.
  • The Gophers held a Big Ten opponent to its fewest points today (3) since shutting out Illinois 45-0 in 2004. It was the fewest points scored by any Minnesota opponent since the Gophers held Florida Atlantic to 3 in 2008.
  • Illinois is the first Big Ten team to be held without a touchdown by the Gophers since Purdue in 2008.
  • Minnesota has held Illinois to a combined 10 points in its last two meetings.

INDIVIDUAL NOTES

  • Donnell Kirkwood rushed for 152 yards on 28 carries for his third 100-yard rushing game of the season and career.
  • Kirkwood scored on a 3-yard run late in the third quarter for his fourth rushing touchdown of the season and the seventh of his career. He added a second TD with 1:34 to play for his second two-TD game of the season (Syracuse).
  • Kirkwood now has 819 rushing yards on the year and becomes the first Minnesota RUNNING BACK to top 700 yards in a season since Amir Pinnix ran for 1,272 yards in 2006.
  • D.L. Wilhite helped keep Illinois off the scoreboard late in the first half, pushing the Illini out of field-goal range with a sack. He now has a team-leading 7.5 on the season, which ranks among the Big Ten leaders.
  • Roland Johnson recovered his first career fumble during the second quarter to stop an Illinois drive.
  • Derrick Wells also scooped up his first career fumble recovery in the fourth quarter to help seal the win.
  • Alex Keith and Brock Vereen combined on a late third-quarter sack. It was the first time either player has been in on a sack this season.
  • Jordan Wettstein connected on a 20-yard field goal late in the second quarter to get the Gophers on the scoreboard. It was his 12th field goal of the season on 20 attempts and the 18th make of his career.

Minnesota Head Coach Jerry Kill Postgame Quotes
Minnesota 17, Illinois 3
Memorial Stadium // Nov. 10, 2012 // Attendance: 46,912

Opening statement:
"I think the biggest thing is that I am happy for our kids and certainly our seniors. We found a way to get it done today and we faced a lot of adversity. That's the first time in 30 years of coaching that I had to have our third string center snapping at the end of the game. We played old-fashioned football. We ran the ball, played great defense and we didn't turn it over. I thought those were the things that helped us get to where we are."

On running the ball so often and their offensive strategy:
"We wanted to be able to run the ball. They did some unique things in the secondary that made it difficult to throw it. We discussed at halftime with the offensive coaches to figure out what we needed to do because they were bringing guys from about everywhere. So we decided to line up and run the power and outside zone and try to protect Philip (Nelson) as much as we could. Donnell (Kirkwood) played outstanding and the more we gave it to him, the better he got. The offensive line, with the injuries we had, really battled. If you can play great defense, run the football, and not make any mistakes in the kicking game, you have a chance to win and that's what we did today.

On being bowl-eligible:
"I just think of the seniors, and I am happy for them. We still have work to do. We still have two games left and that's our focus. I am happy for those older kids because when you have a coaching transition, it's a hard thing on them. It's been tough but they have responded well and I am just happy for those kids because they have been through a lot."

On going for it on 4th and inches, rather than kick the field goal:
"It's one of those things where you are on the road, and with only a few inches to go, if you can't make that you probably don't deserve to win. We ran a quarterback sneak and got a good push. We were at a position where it was probably too far out to kick a field goal and it's also not a great place to punt. So we took a shot and ended up getting a penalty on it, but sometimes on the road you have to go after it to win.

On his defense's effort today:
"I think they played smart and (punter) Christian (Eldred) did a good job of keeping them on a long field. Our defense played good, assignment football. When they ran the option, we had someone on the dive and on the quarterback. We came up with some critical plays. Our guys up front played with a tremendous low pad level. I think we won the war up front. A week ago we didn't make those crucial plays, but give the kids credit because they rose to the occasion today. I'm just so proud for our kids, they have been consistent all year. They come to work every day and haven't complained or moaned and I am just happy that they are getting rewarded for their good play."

 

Minnesota Postgame Player Quotes

 

QB Phillip Nelson
On what bowl eligibility means to the seniors:
"It's unbelievable. We've been talking about this all year long. We want to send these guys out on a good note and these seniors are who we're all playing for right now. Now that we're bowl eligible, we're not done yet. We want to keep winning and these next two games are important too, just like any other game."

On the pressure of trying to gain bowl eligibility:
"It's just another game, that's how we tried to take it. We could've won last week; it doesn't really matter. We just played our game and the outcome went in our favor."

On running back Donnell Kirkwood:
"He does a great job getting north and south and grinding out those yards. Some of the biggest carries he had were when nothing was there and he somehow made something work. That's huge, having him back there behind that big offensive line and have them do their job it's really beautiful."

DE D.L. Wilhite
On being bowl-eligible:
"It feels great, it's been a couple of years since I've had the opportunity, two long hard years of struggling. It means a lot for the program moving forward and it feels very good to say that hopefully, God willing, we'll be going back to a bowl."

On the first quarter goal line stand:
"It was huge. It set the tone for the rest of the game. They could've easily won themselves some momentum if they had been able to punch it in, but for the defense to come together and stop it on that third down it was definitely huge."

On keeping Illinois out of the end zone:
"You always expect a team to break some big plays open but it seemed like everything was coming together and everyone was playing real solid, assignment football. Everyone is doing their jobs and when you do that it's just easy to keep them out."

RB Donnell Kirkwood
On the second half improvements:
"Be patient. Just be patient. We had to slow down a little bit. We wanted to get after them all game and I feel like we tried to get after them too fast. We had to slow down, let things open up and everything would be fine."

Illinois Head Coach Tim Beckman Postgame Quotes

Opening statement:
"It's definitely a tough one. The players in there fought hard, I thought. We weren't consistent enough offensively. Defensively, I thought we played better. We didn't give up the long strikes. They [Minnesota] tried to run the football a little bit more than probably we expected them to run. As you look early in that football game, we had a couple opportunities to take big strikes, to take those big hits, and we overthrow a wide-open receiver that's square in the middle of the football field. Just things like that that you have to make if you're going to be successful and our players aren't making those plays."

On the early trick play:
"We talked about it long and hard, and spent more time a little bit with the offense trying to stretch the field vertically early to get them aware of it."

On getting more involved with the offensive play calling:
"The last couple weeks I've been more involved with it. I'm not going to get too involved. I'm letting Chris (Beatty), Billy (Gonzales) is calling third downs, so Chris calls the rest of the game. Tim Banks calls the defense. I'm just suggesting - strongly urge, maybe - some of the plays that I think can help them be successful throughout the game."

On the offensive line play:
"We've got to come off the football and bloody some mouths and get us a yard when we need a yard. I mean, we can't put the ball on the one-yard line for two downs and not get the ball in the end zone. This is college football, come off the football regardless who is running, Donovonn Young or Nathan Scheelhaase, and get the ball the yard."

On the team's mentality:
"I haven't been around this, no. I haven't been around this much this losing. It's been tough, but you've got to find ways to motivate. You've got to find ways so that your seniors understand the importance of playing these last 14 days of practice because that's what they've got. They've got 14 opportunities to be on that practice field with those juniors, sophomores and freshmen, then it's over."

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