It wasn’t easy, but the Gophers accomplished a feat that seemed to be in question half-way through the Big Ten season.
With today’s 17-3 win over the Fighting Illini, the Gophers became bowl eligible for the first time since 2009 and the first for Jerry Kill as head coach of Minnesota.
With heavy winds blowing through the stadium, both passing offenses were largely stagnant.
Minnesota quarterback Philip Nelson did not make any mistakes while throwing for only 77 yards on 9 for 15 pass attempts and no touchdowns.
Illini quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase threw for 176 yards and no touchdowns but a quarterback sneak on third-and-one with three minutes left resulted in a fumble by Scheelhaase when the Illini were looking to drive down the field to tie the game.
Instead, the turnover resulted in another touchdown for Minnesota as Donnell Kirkwood rushed into the end zone three plays later on a 12 yard run.
Kirkwood carried the team on his back, rushing 29 times for 171 yards and two touchdowns.
Minnesota rushed the ball a total of 50 times for 240 yards.
The Gopher defense was consistent throughout the game, surrendering a total of 282 yards.