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Gophers beat Illinois 32-23, give Claeys first win as head coach

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Illinois Fighting Illini 23

Minnesota Gophers 32

Freshman running back Shannon Brooks ran 75 yards for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter to seal the win for the Gophers 32-23 Saturday afternoon at TCF Bank Stadium.

It snapped a four-game losing streak, and was the first victory for Minnesota head coach Tracy Claeys, who took over the team after Jerry Kill retired midseason.

Brooks' late touchdown came as Minnesota was hanging on with just a one-point lead, and was hoping to run out the clock to preserve the win.

Quarterback Mitch Leidner ran into the end zone on the two-point conversion to make it a two-possession game for Illinois, who got the ball back with 1:25 left but couldn't score.

The Gophers scored most of their points in the first half, and led 21-13 at halftime. But they struggled mightily in the third quarter as Illinois' offense opened the third quarter with a 75-yard touchdown drive to close within one point.

Minnesota scored a field goal on the ensuing drive to make it 24-20.

Illinois outgained the Gophers 131-1 in the third quarter, controlling the ball for more than 11 minutes, the Star Tribune notes.

Minnesota had lost its last three games to Big Ten powerhouses Michigan, Ohio State and Iowa.

With the win, the Gophers (5-6, 2-5 Big Ten) keep up their hopes of going to a postseason bowl game.

They close out the season next Saturday at home against the Wisconsin Badgers, and a win there would lock up a bowl bid.

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