The Golden Gopher football team ended its season with a bang, beating Illinois by a score of 27-7. Minnesota's 24 seniors ended their careers on a win. They did it with some help from junior quarterback MarQueis Gray, who broke the school's single-season record for quarterback rushing yards.
Gray's 866-yard rushing total for 2011 surpasses the 831-yard mark set by Billy Cockerham in 1999. With 167 yards in today's contest, Gray also became the first Gopher with four 100-yard rushing performances in a season since Amir Pinnix in 2006. Gray found the end zone on two of his three carries, and also added a passing touchdown to John Rabe.
Gray rushed for 167 yards to lead Minnesota.
Although the junior quarterback stole the show, the senior class provided some big plays, too. Kicker Jordan Wettstein made two field goals, including a 51-yard attempt. That was the first 50-yard field goal by a Minnesota kicker since Joel Monroe in 2007.
Senior safety Kim Royston led the team's stellar defensive effort with 13 tackles, including eight solo tackles. It was his eighth double-digit tackle game of the year. He sacked quarterback Nate Scheelhaase in the red zone to end Illinois's final drive of the game.
"I am just very blessed my last play ended with a sack and not a broken leg," said the sixth-year senior who missed 2010 with an injury.
Senior linebacker Gary Tinsley also recorded one of the team's five sacks. Another senior, Kyle Henderson made nine tackles.
Fittingly, fifth-year senior Duane Bennett ran the final play of the game. Bennett has been part of the Gopher football program since 2007.
"I couldn't be happier for the senior group that's walking out of here," head coach Jerry Kill said. "They've been through so many things through their years here at the University of Minnesota. They've been great hanging in there through this year and just working to get better. I'm so happy for them, and they've set the tone for us going forward."