MINNEAPOLIS — On a spectacular afternoon in front of a home crowd, the Minnesota Gophers offense stumbled and sputtered en route to a humbling 14-6 loss to Illinois.
The U of M came into the game atop the Big Ten west with a 6-3 record, 4-2 in the league. But the fighting Illini, last in their division and fighting to keep bowl hopes alive, managed to shut down the Gopher running game and rattle quarterback Tanner Morgan, forcing him into a pair of interceptions.
Illinois scored touchdowns on its first two drives, and then hung on for the win as Minnesota floundered. The Gophers didn't score until the fourth quarter when Morgan ran one in from the 1-yard line. Minnesota then failed to convert the extra point.
Morgan finished the game 15 of 27 passing for 180 yards and two interceptions. Illinois running back Chase Brown picked up 147 yards on the ground on 32 carries.
The humbling loss comes just days after Gophers head coach P.J. Fleck signed a new seven-year contract worth a reported $5.1 million per year.
Up next is a trip to Iowa where the Gophers have not won a game since 1999.