Reggie Corbin rushed for 213 yards and two touchdowns — both coming on runs of more than 70 yards — as Illinois defeated Minnesota 55-31 on Saturday.
Corbin became the first Illini player to rush for two 70-yard-plus touchdowns in a single game since 1944.
“Reggie plays like that every game,” Illinois coach Lovie Smith said. “Week in and week out, he just plays football for us.”
Minnesota (4-5, 1-5 Big Ten) had trouble all game stopping the run, giving up 430 yards and five touchdowns on the ground.
The 55 points were the most points for Illinois (4-5, 2-4) since Smith took over as head coach before the 2016 season.
“We didn’t tackle anyone,” said Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck. “I think our speed got exposed on defense. They were running away from us.”
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 scoring 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.
Illinois quarterback AJ Bush managed the game well and accounted for four touchdowns, going 18 of 25 for 216 yards passing with two touchdowns and one interception. Bush rushed for 127 yards on 14 carries and two more touchdowns.
“AJ played well, both running and passing,” Smith said. “He’s shown us what kind of a leader he is.”
Tanner Morgan, starting at quarterback for the second straight game for injured starter Zack Annexstad, was 14 of 27 for 258 yards and two touchdowns.
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 4-yard touchdown run by Mohamed Ibrahim.
“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 football game for us. And that’s on me.”
Minnesota: Needs six wins to nail down a bowl bid, and Saturday’s defeat makes it all the more difficult. With three games left, against Nebraska, Iowa and Wisconsin, they need wins in two of them. Not impossible, but not easy.
Illinois: The easy win may have helped cool the hot seat coach Lovie Smith had found himself on. Calling the defense after the abrupt resignation last week of coordinator Hardy Nickerson, Smith acquitted himself well, with his defense giving up 438 yards, substantially less than in past weeks.
“We needed to come back and show we can play defense,” Smith said. “I think we’re getting closer.”