Gophers struggle in 37-21 win over Illinois State

The Gopher football team, who impressed everyone with their 63-21 win over Toledo in the season opener, was a no-show for most of the first half Saturday, but scored 21 unanswered points in the second and third quarters to break open a 14-14 tie as they defeated Illinois State 37-21 to improve to 2-0. Marion Barber III and Laurence Maroney, who rushed for over 1,000 yard last season, both rushed for over 100 yards in the win.

Illinois State jumped ahead 7-0, just 2:17 into the game when Yance Vaughan hit Ramon Barber on a 38-yard scoring play. Barber eluded several Gopher defenders as he pranced down the left sideline. The Gophers appeared to knot the score at 7-7 when Bryan Cupito connected with Jakari Wallace. Unfortunately, the play was called back, due to a holding penalty on guard Mark Setterstrom.

Cupito hit his favorite receiver Jared Ellerson for a two-yard touchdown to cap a 7-play, 72- yard drive.

Illinois State kicker Stephen Carroll missed a 43-yard field goal and Minnesota marched 74 yards for another score to take a 14-7 lead. Barber ended the drive with a 5-yard touchdown run.

Illinois State tied the game with a 54-yard scoring drive as Vaughan connected with Jason Horton on a 22-yard touchdown pass in the corner of the end zone to knot the game at 14-14.

Minnesota marched quickly down the field at the end of the half for another score. Barber ran 18 yards and Cupito connected twice with Ellerson on a scoring drive that ended with a Barber 10-yard score. Illinois State blocked the extra point to make the halftime score 20-14. The Redbirds were impressive offensively in the first half, as they outgained the Gophers 280 to 234 yards.

Rhys Lloyd hit a 39-yard field goal to end a 31-yard drive and give the Gophers a 23-14 edge after a Redbird punt to open the second half.

The Gophers used two big plays to put the game away. Maroney scampered 80 yards for a touchdown, putting the Gophers up 30-14. The run was the longest by a Gopher in nearly six years and capped off a four-play, 94-yard drive. Two minutes later, Cupito hooked up with Ernie Wheelwright for an 80-yard touchdown putting the Gophers up 37-14.

The Redbirds held the Gophers to 25 yards of offense in the fourth quarter and scored a touchdown with 9:17 left on a Vaughan 1-yard touchdown plunge for the final margin.

Barber rushed for 149 yards on 18 carries, while Maroney finished with 141 yards on 18 carries. Cupito was 10-of-22 for 204 yards and two scores. Ellerson led the receiving corps for the second straight game with six catches for 62 yards and a touchdown.

Minnesota piled up 509 yards of total offense, including 303 on the ground, marking the seventh time in the last two years the Gophers have eclipsed the 300-yard mark on the ground. Illinois State finished with 480 yards of total offense.

Former Gopher Demetrus Johnson became the first opposing player to rush for over 100 yards in the last 15 games. He had 104 yards on 14 carries. Vaughan threw for 372 yards on 33 of 57 passing. He was intercepted twice by Ukee Dozier and Trumaine Banks but also threw two touchdowns.

Minnesota travels to Colorado State next Saturday for a 9 p.m. game on ESPN2. Colorado State lost to No. 1 USC 49-0 as it fell to 0-2.

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