MINNEAPOLIS (WCIA) — And then, there were three.
With Cam Thomas seeing his first action of the season on Saturday, 21 of the 24 true freshman have now played this season. That is now the most true freshman in the country.
Thomas was potent on the ground, running for 79 yards on ten carries, but he only completed two passes, and his one interception was returned for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
“Freshman, first time playing, you have to like some of the things he was able to do,” head coach Lovie Smith said. “He can move the ball with his feet. Threw a couple good passes early on. Had a few we would like to have back later on though.”
“I do have the speed and quickness to work on this level, and hopefully next week and the following weeks I can show them that I also have the arm strength and the arm,” Thomas said.
On defense, the Gophers did exactly what Rutgers did last week, running for 292 yards for the game. That’s 566 yards the Illini have given up in the ground in the last two games.
“We just got to make sure we’re all flowing to the ball, make sure we have the energy to play 60 minutes of hard football,” sophomore corner Cameron Watkins said. “We did an okay job in the first half, we just got to step it up in the second half.”
“Problems on every level to be honest,” freshman safety Bennett Williams said. “Up front and then at the linebacker level we just got to be more dominant. We got to take care of our gaps play in and play out and just be more physical up front. That’s kind of where it starts.”
Ra’Von Bonner and Ricky Smalling scored the only touchdowns for the Illini Saturday. With those two scores, the last nine touchdowns and eleven of Illinois’ 13 touch downs this season have been scored by true freshman.