Champaign, IL (Sports Network) - Donnell Kirkwood rushed for 152 yards and two touchdowns as the Minnesota Golden Gophers defeated the Illinois Fighting Illini, 17-3, in a Big Ten showdown at Memorial Stadium.
Philip Nelson started under center for the Gophers (6-4, 2-4 Big Ten) and completed just 9-of-15 passes for 78 yards. With the win, Minnesota is now bowl eligible for the first time since 2009.
For Illinois (2-8, 0-6), Nathan Scheelhaase threw for 175 yards on 15-of-23 passing and Darius Millines caught four balls for 51 yards. The Illini have lost seven straight games.
Illinois put together an impressive nine-play, 89-yard drive early in the opening quarter, but it stalled in the red zone and had to settle for a 20- yard field goal from Nick Immekus to take a 3-0 lead.
Minnesota answered in the second quarter with a 20-yard field goal of its own by Jordan Wettstein, but that was all for the first half scoring. The teams combined for seven punts in the first half.
With under three minutes to play in the third quarter, Minnesota finally struck with the game's first touchdown as Kirkwood rushed into the end zone from three yards out.
Kirkwood added another touchdown, this time from 12 yards out, in the final two minutes to put the game out of reach.
Illinois was plagued by two lost fumbles on the afternoon, while Minnesota played turnover-free football.