Reggie Corbin’s huge day carries Illini in blowout of Gophers
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CHAMPAIGN — The hot seat Illinois coach Lovie Smith has found himself on cooled down a bit Saturday as the Illini beat Minnesota 55-31 in a game that saw some impressive touchdown runs.
Meanwhile, things are heating up for Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck, who has watched his team drop five of its last six games.
Reggie Corbin rushed for 213 yards and two touchdowns — both on runs of more than 70 yards — to become the first Illini player to rush for two 70-yard-plus touchdowns in a game since 1944.
“Reggie plays like that every game,” Smith said. “Week in and week out, he just plays football for us.”
It was Corbin’s fourth 100-yard rushing effort in the last five games.
Minnesota (4-5, 1-5 Big Ten) had trouble all game stopping the run, giving up 430 yards and five touchdowns on the ground. -Illinois racked up 646 yards of offense.
“It’s a lack of consistency that’s hurting us,” Fleck said. “And it’s all over the field, on offense, defense, special teams. This was just not a good game for us. And that’s on me.”
The 55 points were the most for Illinois -(4-5, 2-4) since Smith took over as coach before the 2016 season.
“We didn’t tackle anyone,” Fleck said. “I think our speed got exposed on defense. They were running away from us.”
Illinois quarterback AJ Bush managed the game well and accounted for four Illinois touchdowns, going 18-for-25 for 216 yards with two touchdown passes and one interception. Bush rushed for 127 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries.
“AJ played well, both running and passing,” Smith said. “He’s shown us what kind of a leader he is.”
Redshirt freshman Tanner Morgan got the start again at quarterback for Minnesota after an excellent performance in beating Indiana last week in his first career start. True freshman Zack Annexstad won the job in fall camp, hurt his ankle in the third game, played through it rather ineffectively, then suffered an unspecified midsection injury in a loss at Nebraska on Oct. 20.
Morgan had the first 300-yard passing game last week for the Gophers since 2015 and might have secured the starting role even if Annexstad gets healthy.
Morgan was 14-for-27 for 258 yards and two touchdowns against Illinois.
Illinois led 24-17 at the half.
Sandwiched between the Illini scoring runs to open the game was a 12-play Minnesota drive that resulted in a four-yard touchdown run by Mohamed Ibrahim.
Illinois’ first two possessions resulted in two 72-yard touchdown runs — one by Corbin and the other by Dre Brown. Both came on second-and-long, and both backs were untouched once they cleared the line of scrimmage. Corbin later ripped off a 77-yard touchdown run.
Brown rushed for 92 yards and one touchdown. He was playing in lieu of injured starting running back Mike Epstein, who generally shares carries with Corbin.