Gophers coach Tim Brewster said twice last week that his much-maligned defense is making steady improvement.
He might want to rethink that statement because what happened against Illinois cannot be construed as progress by even the most optimistic of souls.
It was epic ineptitude.
In a season filled with defensive failures, the Gophers gave one of the most embarrassing efforts in years in a 44-17 homecoming loss to the Illini.
The Gophers (1-9, 0-6 Big Ten) suffered their eighth consecutive loss, and with two games remaining, it appears more likely that they will finish the Big Ten season without a victory or tie for the first time since 1983.
Facing a lifeless defense, Illinois romped for 429 total yards in the first half alone and led 34-10 at halftime. Minnesota allowed 655 total yards for the game (including 448 rushing), and the final numbers could have been even worse except Illinois showed some mercy in the second half.
Illinois, which owns the nation's No. 8 rushing attack, had its way with the run and pass and simply toyed with the Gophers in the first half.
Here was the first-half carnage: Illinois had 255 rushing yards, 174 passing yards, 17 first downs and nine plays that went at least 15 yards.
Illinois tailback Rashard Mendenhall rushed for 118 yards and one touchdown on only nine carries in the first half.
Illinois has one of the nation's worst passing games, but that didn't matter one bit. Juice Williams completed nine of 14 passes for 174 yards and two touchdowns in the first half. Williams also rushed for 83 yards and one touchdown before halftime.
GAME BALL GOES TO: WR Ernie Wheelwright — A senior playing his final Homecoming game before a sparse crowd, Wheelwright had nine catches for 123 yards and a first-half touchdown. It was the third time in the last five games Wheelwright crossed the 100-yard mark and had at least six receptions.
KEEP AN EYE ON: LB Steve Davis — The Gophers junior collected double digits in tackles (10) for the third consecutive game.
LOOKING GOOD: Nothing, really. The Gophers have lost eight consecutive games and are a mess on offense and defense.
P Justin Kucek continues to be one of the few bright spots. He averaged 44.2 yards per punt Saturday and placed three inside the 20.
WR Ernie Wheelwright had career highs in catches (nine) and receiving yards (123) with one touchdown.
STILL NEEDS WORK: Minnesota struggled against the pass early in the season. These days, the Gophers can't stop the run. Illinois rushed for 448 yards, meaning Minnesota has allowed 1,149 rushing yards the past three games.
TB Duane Bennett managed only 35 rushing yards on 12 carries one week after getting his career 100-yard rushing game against Michigan.
QB Adam Weber threw his Big Ten-worst 16th interception on the first offensive play of the game.
Senior C Tony Brinkhaus suffered a concussion and missed the final three quarters.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I take full responsibility as the head football coach for how the team played. I take the good and the bad and we did not play good. Obviously the numbers that we gave up defensively are not acceptable." — Minnesota coach Tim Brewster on the overall performance.
No Defense for Gophers Defense
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