Big Play Bentley

Veteran Illinois corner V'Angelo Bentley has a knack for coming through when his team needs him the most. He did just that on Saturday to spark a win over the Gophers.

Illinois cornerback V'Angelo Bentley hates losing. Coming out of one of the most successful high school programs in Ohio at the time, Glenville Academic Campus in Cleveland, Bentley was used to success and the hard work that came along with it.

So when he did lose, he knew what to do. And on Saturday against Minnesota, the film study and extra time in preparation paid off.

"We just focused on getting better at what we do and looking at the plays that hurt us before," he said. "That way we could make adjustments easier and quicker."

The gameplan against Minnesota was pretty simple: Stop the run and force them to beat you through the air. So Bentley knew that he and his fellow defensive backs had to be on their game as they would be in a lot of man-to-man coverage.

"It just about the corners and secondary keeping their heads and not falling asleep back there," he said. "Minnesota is a running team but we know they like the play action and can hit some deep balls."

Bentley, however, made arguably the biggest play of the game when, with 6:33 left in the fourth quarter, he scooped up a David Cobb fumble, forced by T.J. Neal, and returned it 12 yards for the go-ahead touchdown.

"It was a great feeling," he said. "We were talking about just doing our jobs before that, but that was a big play for us."

Bentley, later discussing the key play, was both confident and humble when describing it. He has a knack for being a game changer, but doesn't let the big plays go to his head, either.

"I knew as soon as I got it I wasn’t going to let anyone catch me from behind," Bentley said. "But any time I can make a play for a big gain or to spark the team it’s a great deal for me. Getting in the endzone and putting us up solidified the game for us."

However, on a day where Illinois honored the Galloping Ghost Red Grange, Bentley did something that no other player in Illinois history has accomplished, even Grange himself, when he returned the fumble for touchdown.

No other player in Illinois history has a kickoff, punt, interception, and fumble return for touchdown. Bentley sits all alone with that honor, but despite the prestige of that mark, he didn't make too big of a deal out of it.

"It’s an honor, but there’s still work to do," he said. "I still want to make whatever plays I can for the team. Whatever I can do to help us get points or set us up."

Though the play was very opportunistic, Bentley knew that Minnesota was vulnerable to that sort of play from games past, and without as many opportunities to force turnovers through the air, the Illinois defense knew they had to make the most of their chances to rip the ball out on the ground.

"We knew that they put the ball on the ground a couple times in their past games," he said. "We knew we had to fill the gaps and make the plays, and we knew Cobb was a good running back. Making them sort of one-dimensional was big for us."

Perhaps most satisfying for Bentley, though, was for he and his teammates to be able to come through for a fan base that desperately wanted to win. He and his teammates took it upon themselves to not let the students and fans down and came out with one of their best performances of the year.

It was great (to win a Big Ten home game)," he said. "Wednesday and Thursday when we were walking around campus and all the students were like ‘We’re coming to the game this weekend!’ so it was motivation for us because these students wanted to see us win."


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