12:00 PM ET, October 25, 2003
Memorial Stadium (Champaign, IL), Champaign, IL
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) -- Minnesota's Laurence Maroney ran all over the Illinois defense Saturday, piling up 179 yards on 22 carries in the Gophers' 36-10 win.
And he could have had more -- his 89-yard run was called back by a penalty.
Alabama will struggle to contain Minnesota's ground game.
"He doesn't look like a freshman running back, does he?" Minnesota coach Glen Mason said.
A St. Louis-area native, Maroney chose to play as close to home as he could get in the Big Ten.
He said he wanted to put on a show for the 30 or 40 friends and relatives in the stands, and for the Illini coaches who lost the battle to recruit him.
"He's been looking good all season, but just the fact that he was coming home made him play better." said Minnesota quarterback Asad Abdul-Khaliq.
"I had a lot of family members coming up, probably 30 or 40 people," Maroney said. "I really wanted to show them that I could do this against a Big Ten team."
Maroney scored two touchdowns and Abdul-Khaliq threw three TD passes. Marion Barber III added 129 yards on 24 carries as the Gophers (7-2, 3-2 Big Ten) broke their two-game losing streak and rolled up 575 yards in total offense, their fourth game of more than 500 yards this season.
"We clicked on all cylinders and made some plays," Abdul-Khaliq said. "Sometimes our tailbacks are running so good that you just can't stop giving them the ball."
Abdul-Khaliq was 12-of-15 for 237 yards and threw touchdown passes to Jared Ellerson, Jarod Posthumus and Aaron Hosack. The pass to Hosack in the second quarter covered 80 yards after he got behind the Illinois secondary.
"I was really surprised," Abdul-Khaliq said. "I didn't see anybody in the vicinity of about 15 yards of him."
Illinois (1-8, 0-5) scored its only touchdown on a 4-yard pass from Dustin Ward to fullback Carey Davis. Ward completed 17 of 32 passes for 221 yards for the Illini, who lost for the seventh straight time.
After Abdul-Khaliq's 80-yard TD pass to Hosack put Minnesota up 17-0 with 12:28 remaining in the first half, Ward replaced starting quarterback Chris Pazan and led the Illini on a seven-play, 80-yard scoring drive, ending with the pass to Davis. Ward was 4-for-4 on the drive, including a 47-yard completion to Kelvin Hayden.
"Guys were out their fighting and to be able to be a part of the battle again was fun. That's what I came here to do," Ward said.
Illinois kept moving the ball under Ward, but missed a chance to make the game close late in the first half.
With Minnesota up 17-7, the Illini drove to the Minnesota 10. But Justin Isom intercepted Ward's pass in the end zone with 20 seconds left in the half.
"I thought it was critical because momentum plays such a big factor," Mason said. "If they can put seven points on there, it's a whole different ball game."
Minnesota's first scoring drive went 89 yards in 12 plays and was spurred by a fourth-down conversion when, with the Gophers in punt formation, Benji Kamrath took the snap from center and pushed the ball ahead 2 yards for a first down. From there, the Gophers marched downfield in six plays before Maroney ran scored from 5 yards out.
Penalties nullified big plays for both teams. The Gophers had Maroney's long run called back by a holding penalty, and Illinois had a 10-yard TD pass from Ward to Mark Kornfeld nullified because Kornfeld stepped out of bounds before he caught the ball.
The penalty forced the Illini to kick a field goal.