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Associated Press, Published November 10 2012

Gophers now bowl eligible with win over Illinois

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – Minnesota coach Jerry Kill did it again.

After rebuilding programs earlier in his career, Kill has the Gophers bowl eligible for the first time since 2009 after defeating Illinois 17-3 Saturday.

Kill, who overhauled Northern Illinois and Southern Illinois before taking over Minnesota, earned his first Big Ten road win in his second season after running back Donnell Kirkwood rushed for 152 yards and two touchdowns.

The Gophers (6-4, 2-4 Big Ten) won for the second time in three games and pushed their winning streak at Memorial Stadium to four. Minnesota was content to keep the ball on the ground after completing only three passes in the first half and nine the entire game.

Kirkwood, a sophomore from Delray Beach, Fla., scored on a 3-yard run in the third quarter to break a 3-3 tie. The run capped an 11-play, 51-yard drive.

After Minnesota recovered a fumble by Illini quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase on a quarterback sneak on third-and-1 at the Illinois 29, Kirkwood scored on a 12-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter to clinch it.

The game pitted two sluggish offenses which combined for 585 total yards.

Minnesota freshman quarterback Philip Nelson won for the second time in his fourth start, but the Gophers relied on the running game. He threw for just 78 yards.

While Kill’s program enjoyed a milestone victory, Illinois continued a slide under first-year coach Tim Beckman.

Minnesota 0 3 7 7 – 17

Illinois 3 0 0 0 – 3

First Quarter

Ill – FG Immekus 20, 7:48.

Second Quarter

Minn – FG Wettstein 20, 3:30.

Third Quarter

Minn – Kirkwood 3 run (Wettstein kick), 2:31.

Fourth Quarter

Minn – Kirkwood 12 run (Wettstein kick), 1:34.

A – 46,912.

Minn Ill

First downs 18 13

Rushes-yards 50-231 35-101

Passing 78 175

Comp-Att-Int 9-15-0 15-25-0

Return Yards 4 2

Punts-Avg. 6-43.3 6-41.5

Fumbles-Lost 2-0 2-2

Penalties-Yards 5-24 6-45

Time of Possession 34:26 25:34

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING: Minnesota, Kirkwood 28-152, R.Williams 10-55, Nelson 12-24. Illinois, Young 10-42, Scheelhaase 14-24, Ferguson 5-19, J.Davis 4-10, Ayoola 2-6.

PASSING: Minnesota, Nelson 9-15-0-78. Illinois, Scheelhaase 15-23-0-175, Team 0-2-0-0.

RECEIVING: Minnesota, Fruechte 3-40, Green 2-19, Jones 1-7, R.Williams 1-7, Gray 1-5, Henry 1-0. Illinois, Millines 4-51, Lankford 4-44, Harris 2-57, Viliunas 2-14, Young 2-4, Ferguson 1-5.