CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — 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.
Minnesota (4-5, 1-5) 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 Big Ten) since Smith took over as head coach before the 2016 season.
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 Illinois touchdowns, going 18 of 25 for 216 passing yards with two touchdowns, and one interception. Bush rushed for 127 yards on 14 carries and two more touchdowns.
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.
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.
Minnesota: Hosts Purdue on Saturday.
Illinois: Travels to Nebraska next week.