Minnesota entered this weekend unbeaten in Big Ten play, but perhaps the image of gray uniforms staring them down was too much to handle in the first half. Illinois, wearing specially designed uniforms to honor Illini legend Red Grange, has taken a 14-3 lead into halftime Saturday afternoon.
Illinois scored both touchdowns of the half in the first quarter. Quarterback Reilly O’Toole tossed a short pass to Jon Davis for the first score of the game. He would later run for the game’s second touchdown as Illinois took a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. Minnesota finally got on the scoreboard in the second quarter with a 44-yard field goal by Ryan Santoso.
Illinois had been struggling against the run this season, but the Gophers have failed to get on track on the ground. David Cobb has been stuffed for just 24 yards on 12 attempts. Illinois has held Minnesota to just 86 yards of total offense after one half. The Illini offense has recorded 165 yards of offense.
Despite O’Toole playing well early on, Illinois head coach Tim Beckman replaced him under center with Aaron Bailey to mix things up after jumping out to a 14-0 lead. This was probably part of the game plan going in, but it was a bit of a questionable decision when things were going well. O’Toole did return to lead the offense soon enough though.
Wisconsin jumped out to a 21-0 lead after the first quarter of play on the road at Illinois, but the Illini have battled back in the second quarter. Wisconsin leads at halftime, 28-17.
Wisconsin got on the scoreboard a few different ways in the first. James White and Melvin Gordon each recorded touchdown runs and Joel Stave completed a short pass to Brian Wozniak to build a 21-0 lead in ten minutes of play.
Illinois put together a stronger second quarter despite having just 19 rushing yards at the half. Nathan Scheelhaase has passed for 155 yards but it was Aaron Bailey who tossed a one-yard touchdown pass to Matt LaCosse to cut the Badger lead down to 11 in the final minute of the half.
Wisconsin linebacker Chris Borland, one of the best at his position in the Big Ten, had to be removed from the game in the first half due to what was reported to be a right leg injury. His return was also reported to be questionable. His absence may not be as big of a deal in this particular game, but losing one of the top linebackers in the Big Ten for any amount of time is never a good thing. If he is out for the second half, then Illinois should try to attack the middle of the field and not be afraid to take some chances.
The second half should start with the Illini trying to capitalize on the momentum of the second quarter. Wisconsin has not been able to put this game away, and they have lost some close calls this season (Arizona State, Ohio State). If the Badgers can’t separate themselves a little bit in the third quarter, the Illini could make a run in this one.