Gophers become bowl eligible with 17-3 win over Illinois

The Golden Gophers became bowl eligible for the first time since 2009 Saturday with a 17-3 victory over Illinois in Champaign, Ill. The Gophers improved to 6-4 overall and 2-4 in the Big Ten with the win.

The Golden Gophers became bowl eligible for the first time since 2009 Saturday with a 17-3 victory over Illinois in Champaign, Ill.

The Gophers improved to 6-4 overall and 2-4 in the Big Ten with the win.

According to the Star Tribune, the Gophers could be headed to Meineke Car Care Bowl in Houston or the Heart of Dallas Bowl -- which own the sixth and seventh choice of Big Ten teams. The Gophers could be featured in a different bowl game should they upset Nebraska next week or Michigan State to end the regular season.

Gophers running back Donnell Kirkwood dominated the Illini throughout the afternoon with 28 carries for 152 yards and two touchdowns.

The Illini got on the board first with a field goal in the first quarter and the Gophers evened it up with a field goal in the second for a 3-3 tie at halftime.

Kirkwood broke the logjam with a 3-yard run with 2:31 to go in the third quarter to push the team ahead 10-3 after the extra point.

Illinois had a chance to drive for a tying score with three minutes left in the game, but fumbled to the Gophers on a third-and-inches call at their own 30. Kirkwood sealed the victory for the Gophers when scampered in from the 12 yard line for his second touchdown with 1:34 to go.

Illinois fell to 2-8 and 0-6 in the Big Ten with the loss.

The Gophers travel to Lincoln, Neb., next week for their game against Cornhuskers.

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