Defense key as Minnesota takes down Illinois

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Minnesota hassled Juice Williams all day, sacking him five time and taking his fumble back for a decisive touchdown in the Golden Gophers' 27-20 upset Saturday.

After Minnesota's Willie VanDeSteeg brought down Williams at the Fighting Illini 9 late in the fourth quarter, Simoni Lawrence scooped up the ball and ran it in for a touchdown and a 27-13 lead for the Golden Gophers (6-1, 2-1 Big Ten).

Just a week after he put up 431 combined yards in a win over Michigan, Williams was 26-of-41 passing for 462 yards and two touchdowns. Illinois (3-3, 1-2) turned the ball over three times.

One second-quarter drive summed up the afternoon for Illinois.

With Minnesota up 7-0, Williams ran out of heavy pressure for a big first down to keep a drive alive.

But a few plays later, Williams was chased out of the pocket as wide receiver Jeff Cumberland ran open across the end zone, waving his arms to get his quarterback's attention.

Then an 8-yard sack forced the Illini to kick a field goal.

VanDeSteeg was Williams' biggest headache Saturday. The senior defensive end had three of the Gophers' sacks and five tackles.

DeLeon Eskridge rushed for 119 yards and two touchdowns for Minnesota. His second touchdown, a 46-yarder early in the fourth quarter, gave the Gophers a 20-6 lead and forced the Illini to play from behind, neutralizing their running game.

Illinois entered the game averaging 210.8 yards on the ground, but Minnesota held the Illini to just 88.

Adam Weber completed 18 of 26 passes for 185 yards and a touchdown.

He found receiver Eric Decker, who entered the game with a Big Ten-best 50 catches, five times in the first quarter. They included a 25-yard touchdown scored when Decker lunged to tuck the ball just inside the pylon on the game's opening drive.

Decker finished with nine catches for 86 yards.

Illinois sophomore receiver Arrelious Benn caught 12 balls for 181 yards, his career high for yardage and third-straight 100-yard game.

Illini freshman A.J. Jenkins caught three passes for 117 yards, two of them long, late touchdowns that kept the Illini in the game.

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