Those Were The Days - Minnesota
84% of the time when I read through one of Detlef's TWTD posts prior to publishing it: "it feels like this game was just yesterday, but George W. Bush was the President while this game was going on. Has it really been that long since we had anything to get excited about?" Yes, it really has been that long.
Here's Detlef taking us back to the Rose Bowl season...
The Fighting Illini travel to Minnesota to play the Golden Gophers in what promises to be a barnburner. Thankfully, Minnesota now has a nice on-campus stadium as opposed to the Metro Dump. I prefer outdoor football and not the sanitized environment of a dome. Today's tale recalls a Fighting Illini beating of Minnesota in the Dump Dome with the Baggies on the wall.
November 3, 2007: Illinois needed a seventh win to assure bowl eligibility for the first time in the Ron Zook era. It would be the first bowl game since 2001 for the Fighting Illini football program. Thanks RG! Meantime, Minnesota looked as bad as most Illinois teams in the Lord Guenther error. Minnesota entered the game dead last (119th) in total defense in the NCAA. Illinois needed to start fast and bury these cockroaches, um, Golden Gophers. Tim Brewster roamed the sidelines in his first year as Minnesota head coach. The UI alumnus had a long road ahead of him.
On the opening drive, Vontae Davis intercepted Minnesota quarterback Adam Weber. From there, Juice Williams needed five plays for the first score, a 47-yard touchdown pass to Jacob Willis. On its next series, Juice connected with Jeff Cumberland on a 22-yard touchdown pass. Minnesota opened the scoring in the second quarter on a field goal. With a 14-3 lead, Illinois again responded. It took just one minute for Illinois to score again. Rashard Mendenhall raced 64 yards for a touchdown. Minnesota scored on its next drive to make it 21-10. With nine minutes left in the half, Illinois decide to bury the Gophers in the second quarter.
Juice Williams led a nine-play, 77 yard drive that he finished with a seven-yard run. Not done, the Illini then engineered two more drive before the end of the half, with Jason Reda kicking a 47-yard field goal with 1:22 left. Amazingly, Illinois got a three and out and took over again. Juice led a drive that ended the half with Reda nailing a 37-yard field goal for a 34-10 halftime lead.
As I watched the game unfold at Joe's Bar in Chicago, I kept drinking beer and asking myself "Is this really happening? We're beating an inferior opponent soundly? What bowl game will we be attending? Where is my waitress? I need more beer!" Watching Minnesota reminded me of Ron Turner's bad teams and Ron Zook's bad teams. In other words, most of the Lord Guenther error.
Illinois started the third quarter with Reda nailing a 51-yard field goal. With a 37-10 lead, Illinois cruised into the fourth quarter, capped with Rashard Mendenhall rambling 33 yards for another touchdown. Minnesota got a consolation touchdown for a 44-17 Illini win. Illinois absolutely dominated the game. The beloved had 655 yards of offense (3rd most ever in UI history), 448 on the ground! Rashard Mendenhall had 203 yards on 17 carries and two touchdowns. Juice Williams had 103 yards rushing and 207 yards passing.
David Lindquist led the Illini with eight tackles. Arrelious Benn had four catches to set a record for a UI freshman with 46 receptions. Best part about this game: seeing Walter Mendenhall carry the rock! Four carries for 57 yards! The Big 10 named Jason Reda special teams player of the week. Illinois had a tough task the next week, playing at #1 Ohio State…..