CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Illinois is now 6-1 after beating Minnesota at home for during a Saturday game. Illinois is now elligible for a bowl game. The Illini have not beaten Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin in the same season since 1983.
Quarterback Tommy Devito, who went down with an ankle injury against Iowa, started for the Illini. Devito threw for 25-32 with 252 yards, plus a touchdown.
Illinois running back Chase Brown continues to lead the nation in rushing yards, reaching 1,000. Brown rushed 180 yards, receiving 53 with one touchdown. Illinois’ defense was led by true freshman Gabe Jacas with 6 tackles and one sack. Kendall Smith, Quan Martin and Sydney Brown had one interception each.
When Bret Bielema took over the Illini program, he had made 10 bowls in 12 seasons as a head coach. The same amount of postseason games the Illini had over the previous 30 years, but in Year 2 with this staff, the Illini will play a 13th game for the first time since 2019.
“Did I think we’d be 6-1? I don’t think I ever put a number on it,” Illinois head coach Bret Bielema said. “I really worry literally just about getting better. All I’m worried about now is bye week, and getting better for Nebraska.”
“We’re going bowling in October and that’s a really good feeling, but I don’t think that’s the team’s goal,” Illinois quarterback Tommy DeVito said. We want to go way past that. It’s just another notch in our belt.”
The Illini and Gophers each found the endzone twice, but it was four 14-plus play drives that ended in Illinois field goals that proved to be the difference with Illinois possessing the ball for over 40 minutes.
“We hit our shots when we needed to, and we kept the chains moving,” DeVito said. “Especially big on fourth downs again. I think our offensive line did a good job just moving the line of scrimmage, especially in the run game. That made everything easier in the pass game. When they have to load the box and stop Chase Brown it means our receivers can be 1-on-1.”
Chase Brown continued his Heisman campaign with 180 yards on 41 carries, making him the fastest to 1,000 yards in a season in program history.
“I’ll walk down the streets sometimes and I’ll have people shouting at me, ‘Heisman, Heisman, Heisman.’ It hurts, but I just got to take my recovery to a whole new level and come back stronger,” Illinois running back Chase Brown said. “Use this bye week to get my body back, and like I said, come back explosive against Nebraska.”
It’s the first since 1983 Illinois has beaten Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota in the same season.
They now head into a much needed bye cementing themselves as favorites to win their first ever Big Ten West title.