Celestin with the thunder stick
Not a lot of significance in the grand scheme in the game on this play, but more of this type of hit from Jonathan Celestin was the type of beating that Jeff George Jr. took consistently in the second half. This Gopher defense was able to pin their ears back because of the big lead, and they were able to get to the quarterback.
Footwork is key
You'll notice this throw is a lot like the other throw that Mitch Leidner missed in the first half, as he's got plenty of time, but just throws flat-footed, and once again, he's behind the target and misses a sure first down. Whether it's footwork, or just a plain misfire, I think there may be some correlation between the two missed throws here. These are ones that Leidner needs to connect on.
Wolitarsky gobbles up all the YAC
Big fan of the route combinations here from Jay Johnson.
Tyler Johnson at the top of the screen runs a fade route to essentially just run off the corner as Illinois was sitting back in cover one here. Brian Smith runs a crosser and Nate Wozniak is able to pick Drew Wolitarsky's defender, opening up Wolitarsky across the middle. The defensive backs are all in man, and you'll watch Wolitarsky drive outside, and then slip back underneath, and the defensive back tries to get outside, and by the time he realizes his mistake, Wozniak has "picked" him enough to where Wolitarsky is off to the races. Minnesota's longest pass play of the season that goes 35 yards.
Gophers are able to score on the power play
Big credit here has to Wozniak, Jared Weyler and Colton Beebe. Weyler leads up and is able to pin the defensive end inside, Wozniak follows suit behind Weyler and seals off the Mike linebacker and then Beebe is able to drive the play side linebacker out of the play and Smith is able to once again, walk in to the end zone untouched for his second score of the game.
4th down issues arise again
Such an interesting set of route combinations here on 4th and 5.
Leidner immediately after getting the snap, stares down Rashad Still at the bottom of the screen, who gets away with a little push off on the hitch, but that route falls two yards shy of the marker even if Leidner has time to deliver the throw. Wolitarsky runs a little in and up action, Wozniak heads to the flats, Brooks goes to check down and Tyler Johnson tries to find the soft part of the zone. Leidner has some time, but when he tries to move off Still, he feels two guys in his face, rolls right and hits Wozniak, who is still two yards short of the sticks.
Just an interesting set of routes, that's for sure.
Good throw and an even better catch
Illinois is able to battle back within one score on this touchdown throw.
You can see in slow motion that Winfield hand arrives just as the ball does, and the receiver is just able to hang on to the ball for the score.
Rodney Smith makes it look so easy
Another draw play on third down for the Gophers, and you really see here why Rodney Smith is getting a lot of notoriety as it's well-deserved.
Smith takes the handoff and sets up Donnell Greene perfectly for the block on the linebacker by leading him (the linebacker) inside to where Greene just turns around and nails the defender. Smith then is able to turn the corner and stiff arm a defender and finally stays on his feet after a hit on the sidelines.
There's a reason Smith has 800 rushing yards and 10 rushing scores folks, and it ain't all his offensive line.
Beebe doesn't care for your blocks
When Colton Beebe signed Beebe in 2015, this is absolutely what I was imagining from day one. Beebe leading the back out to the sideline and taking out a linebacker in the process. Have to think that Beebe graded out well on Saturday in the run game, and Minnesota's also able to tack on an extra 15 yards here for the bone-headed hit out of bounds.
Third quarter score: Minnesota 21, Illinois 14
Leidner with the clutch pull
Gophers are faced with another third and short in the red zone and Leidner makes the correct read on the read option play, and Minnesota goes back up two scores. The defensive end commits to Shannon Brooks almost immediately off the snap, and Donnell Greene is able to seal the defensive tackle, which makes it an easy pull for Leidner to walk into the end zone for Minnesota's fourth rushing score of the day.
Go attack the ball, please?
Minnesota's next drive on offense results in this third and three play. Mitch Leidner appears to be throwing a comeback route to Rashad Still still here, but the issue is Still never comes back to the ball. He waits and stands in place and the defender is able to up the pass. You have to go attack the ball and give some help to your quarterback here. Still was an all-state basketball player, and it should be second nature for him to go grab this, but WR coach Brian Anderson has some work to do with Still here.
Party in the end zone
A few different people deserve credit here for the safety sack, but give credit first to Minnesota's back seven as George has no one to throw the ball to, and that allows the Gophers pressure to get to him. You see Damarius Travis blitz off the edge here and the left tackle is able to just chip him, where George has to step up, and when he does, Merrick Jackson eats him up for the sack.
The Ekpe brothers make their presence known
Scott Ekpe had everyone linemen's dream right ahead of him when he saw the ball dancing on the ground and nothing but green ahead of him into the end zone. Unfortunately, Ekpe isn't able to get a handle on the ball and just falls on it for the fumble recovery. Hendrick Ekpe is able to turn the corner and then swipe the ball away with his left hand for the strip sack, and this Gopher offense gets another red zone gift.
McCrary makes it five for Minnesota on the day
Have to give credit to the big boys up front here once again.
Garrison Wright and Connor Mayes down block with Mayes working his way off the double team to a linebacker. Moore gets the down block, and Weyler is able to seal off the defensive end. Beebe chips the linebacker and Kobe McCrary is able to walk in for his first Big Ten touchdown.