Minnesota (6-4, 2-4 Big Ten) became bowl eligible for the first time since 2009, and won for the second time in three tries. Illinois (2-8, -6) has dropped seven straight including 12 in a row within Big Ten play.
The victory was the first Big Ten road win for second-year Minnesota coach Jerry Kill.
In their first eight possessions, the Illini had a 20-yard field goal by Nick Immekus in the first quarter, a fumble and six punts.
WATCH MINNESOTA-ILLINOIS HIGHLIGHTS
RECAP: Donnell Kirkwood broke out against Illinois, piling up 171 rushing yards and scoring two touchdowns to lead Minnesota to a 17-3 victory on Saturday at Memorial Stadium. The Golden Gophers did not allow Illinois’ offense to get going throughout the contest. Minnesota’s defensive unit stood firm against the Fighting Illini’s offense, holding Illinois to 282 total yards.
Nathan Scheelhaase kept the Fighting Illini’s offense on track, throwing for 176 yards on 15 of 23 passing.
The Golden Gophers’ Philip Nelson passed for 77 yards, completing nine of 15 throws. He threw no interceptions. Nelson also ran for 23 yards on 12 attempts.
Minnesota’s offense finished the game having gained 317 yards. In addition to Nelson’s efforts through the air, the Golden Gophers also rushed 50 times for 240 yards.
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