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Minnesota At Illinois: Kirkwood Ices It For Minnesota

The Minnesota Golden Gophers took advantage of a huge turnover by the Illinois Fighting Illini, and it appears as though they're on their way to a bowl for the first time since 2009.

The Illini forced the Gophers to punt the ball away and took possession on their own 20-yard line with 3:18 remaining. Facing a 3rd-and-inches at their own 29-yard line, Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase attempted a quarterback sneak to convert for the Illini. He was stood up at the line, and attempted to stick the ball over the pile. In the process of doing so, however, the ball was knocked out of his hands by Minnesota linebacker Mike Rallis. The ball found its way into the hands of Derrick Wells, who took the ball down to the Illinois 19-yard line.

Running back Donnell Kirkwood handled things for Minnesota from there, as the Gophers handed him the ball three times in a row. On the third carry, a third-and-3 from the Illinois 12, Kirkwood made a couple of Illini defenders miss and went into the end zone for his second touchdown of the day. Jordan Wettstein's extra point made the score 17-3 in favor of the Gophers.

This means that the Gophers are going bowling for the first time since they lost the 2009 Insight Bowl to the Iowa State Cyclones by a score of 14-13. With the Big Ten being unable to fill all of its bowl slots thanks to Ohio State and Penn State being on probation from post-season play, the Gophers should get a fairly nice spot on the bowl ladder, too.

The game has just ended in Champaign, and the Minnesota Golden Gophers have defeated the Illinois Fighting Illini by a score of 17-3. We'll have a full recap for you coming soon.

Photographs by Micah Taylor, clairity, and Fibonacci Blue used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.