The Golden Gophers came to play in their third game of the 2020 season, defeating Illinois 41-14 to move to 1-2 on the season.
Minnesota’s offense dominated for 60 minutes. Mohamed Ibrahim was once again the main man in Mike Sanford Jr’s offensive gameplan. The redshirt-junior now has 97 carries, 571 yards, and 10 rushing touchdowns on the season. The Gophers’ offensive line certainly made Mo’s job easier, making their presence felt all night, dominating from the first whistle. We also saw the emergence of Treyson Potts and Cam Wiley, as both took advantage of their carries proving capable of being complementary backs to Ibrahim. Both players combined for 12 carries, 113 yards, and a score on the night. Unfortunately, Potts left the game early in the first half with a lower leg injury, but it doesn’t seem too serious. Ibrahim and the Gophers’ run-game made a serious statement in Champagne, Illinois.
Saturday night, also saw Rashod Bateman have his best game of the season, with 10 catches, 154 yards, and a touchdown. The star receiver’s big night was certainly great to see, as it meant OC, Mike Sanford Jr. had a much more balanced gameplan compared to last week’s Maryland game. The box score will show many more carries than pass attempts, but that has a large part to due with the Gophers having the lead for the majority of the game. Overall, it was great to see Minnesota’s offense take advantage of an Illini defense that has struggled this season, and Sanford has now seemed to settle in as offensive coordinator.
Defensive coordinator, Joe Rossi had tested positive for COVID-19 earlier in the week, so the Gophers’ defense already began a step behind heading into this week’s matchup. The box score will show a dominant performance, only allowing 204 total yards, but I believe Rossi’s defense still has a long way to go if they would like to compete against the Big Ten’s best. Boye Mafe continues to make plays on the edge, but the Gophers’ have not really been able to find another playmaker on the defensive side of the ball thus far. There were stretches of great play this week, but Illinois’ 115 penalty yards certainly helped. This week’s shellacking of Illinois will surely help the Gophers’ confidence going forward, but the defense still has a lot of questions to be answered.
What is next?
The Gophers now sit 1-2 on the season, tied for fourth in the Big Ten West. Heading into week four, Minnesota will take on the Hawkeyes of Iowa for the Floyd of Rosedale trophy. This game will be for sole position of fourth place in the division. The Gophers will then take on Purdue, Wisconsin, and Northwestern in preceding weeks, which are currently the four teams ranked ahead of Minnesota in the division. This week’s 42-14 trouncing of Illinois will certainly boost the Gophers’ confidence going forward. As outrageous as it sounds, if Minnesota wins the next four they’re right in the thick of the race for the division title.
Overall, Mike Sanford Jr’s offense against Illinois looked like it had the potential to be elite going forward. The Joe Rossi-less defense showed flashes of brilliance but still has serious questions. Minnesota ceiling this season will be put on the offense’s shoulders, if the defense can just be average I don’t see why the Gophers’ can’t compete with anyone left on their schedule.