Gophers notch first Big Ten victory on Homecoming

The Minnesota Gophers pick up their first Big Ten win of the year, defeating the Illinois Illini 24-17 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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University of Minnesota cheerleaders, past and present perform at the 2017 homecoming Minnesota Gophers vs. Illinois Illini game on October 21, 2017 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minn. Photo credit: Matt Blewett/The Minnesota Sports Report

After almost a month of coming up short in on the scoreboard, the Gophers hand on and defeat the Illinois Illini in an exciting final five minutes of play.

University of Minnesota cheerleaders, past and present perform at the 2017 homecoming. Photo credit: Matt Blewett/The Minnesota Sports Report

Pregame was highlighted with former cheerleaders and members of the University of Minnesota Dance Team taking the sidelines to get the crowd going.

Senior linebacker Jonathan Celestin picked up a 31 yard pick-six, his first career interception. In addition he picked up five tackles.  Celestin commented after the game, “It was something I have been trying to do my whole career here. I dedicated that score to my father, so it meant a lot.” Head coach P.J. Fleck commented, “I am proud of him and all that he has been through. I think I speak for the entire team when I say that.”

The other big story for the Gophers in this game was Kobe McCrary, who rushed for 153 yards and recorded a touchdown.  Head coach P.J. Fleck had great things to say about the third part of the Gophers’ three headed running game saying, “He is so big and so powerful. He is going to play a lot. He is earning himself playing time by the way he runs the football. He runs hard, he has good vision and good feet.”

Quarterback Demry Croft started his first game for the Gophers on Saturday and passed for 47 yards and connected with receiver Tyler Johnson touchdown.  Croft picked up another 32 yards on the ground.  The offensive line protected him and did not give up a sack.  Fleck said, “We have to get him to slow down. When he slows down and focuses, he is a really good quarterback.”

The Gophers will be traveling to Iowa to face the Hawkeyes and hope to bring Floyd of Rosedale back to Minnesota with a victory.

Photos by Rick Corwine and Matt Blewett