Before we report what happened in this week's simulation, we're sad to inform you that this week's simulation was not 100% accurate. No matter how hard we looked, there was no option to change our jerseys to Grey. This clearly thwarted the accuracy of our simulation of Saturday's game...so take this report with a grain of salt.
Now, down to business...
This one opened with with alternating three and outs by both the Gophers and the Illini. The tone was quickly reversed however, as Mitch Leidner tossed a 16 yard touchdown pass to KJ Maye to give Minnesota an early 7-0 lead. Reilly O'Toole started under center for the Illini, and really struggled to throw the ball early. While that would normally cause issues for the Illini offense, Josh Ferguson was the one that got the offense started early. He would take a 4 yard run into the endzone on the next possession to tie the game at 7. This is where the Gophers started to run the ball...and to EVERYONE's surprise, the Illini stood tall. David Cobb only would rush for 58 yards in the first half of this game, and was never able to establish a solid presence in the backfield causing the Gophers to punt often. Once the battle of field position settled, David Reisner would bang home field goals of 31, 45, and 27 yards to give the Illini a 16-7 lead at the end of the first quarter. Apparently, EA Sports continues to believe in our non-existent kicking game...
Struggles for Minnesota's offense continued, as Cobb would fumble the ball twice in the second quarter and give the Illini multiple chances in the redzone. Sadly, only one trip was converted into points as Reilly zipped an 8 yard pass into the arms of Geronimo Allison. The key stat of the first half was time of possession. The Illini had the ball for 2/3rds of the first half, and they never gave the Minnesota offense a chance to establish their offensive gameplan. However, only converting 5/8 trips to the redzone wasn't looking so promising.
Halftime Score: ILLINI ~ 23 Minnesota ~ 7
In yet another weekly simulation, the second half told a completely different story for the Illini. A lack of offensive production would cause Illinois to not cross midfield in the 3rd quarter. This gave the Gophers ideal field position and brought them right back into the game. It started with (you guessed it) David Cobb. He would score twice from outside the redzone on back to back possessions and brought Minnesota to within 2 points. Illinois would start to reel the Gopher offense back in though, and held strong to bring a 23-21 lead into the 4th quarter.
This is where the defense (yet again) would stand tall and hold the Gophers on their first two possessions. Unfortunately, the Illini offense would lay an egg as they started the quarter with two turnovers. One from Josh Ferguson fumbling inside the Gopher 30 yard line, and the other an interception from Reilly O'Toole. Reilly would finish the game 27-41 (66%) for 301 yards, One Touchdown, and an INT. Ferguson, Donovonn Young, and Aaron Bailey would combine for 48 carries and 282 total yards with a touchdown. The Ferguson fumble led to a 48 yard field goal by Ryan Santoso, and at the end of the 3rd quarter, the Gophers led 23-24.
Leidner and the Gophers would get the ball back with 4 minutes remaining in the game. After a few runs over 10 yards by Cobb, Leidner hit Maxx Williams (the tight end...ugh) for a 38 yard pass and put the Gophers deep in Illinois territory with just under 2:30 remaining. On the next play though, Leidner would overthrow Williams and V'Angelo Bentley would take it to the house. Even though they failed to convert the 2-point conversion, Illinois took a 29-24 lead with 2:24 left in the game. This proved to be too much time though, as the Gopher rushing attack ran the ball down the field (a-la Juice Williams at OSU in '07) and with 14 seconds left...Cobb would punch in a 2 yard run to put the Gophers up for good. Yes, our defense was able to hold Cobb under 200 yards rushing, but giving up 371 yards through the air to the 124th best passing offense is not good. At all.
In a finish quite similar to the Senior Day collapse in 2010, the Illini would yet again lose the game in the last few seconds against Minnesota. I blame this outcome on the lack of updated jerseys.
Final Score: ILLINI ~ 29 Minnesota ~ 30