CHAMPAIGN - Depending on the how you look at things, the first half of Saturday's Illinois-Minnesota game could be summed up two different ways.
One could call it either a defensive battle or an offensive struggle. The two teams went into the break tied at three after a first half filled with punts and failed third downs.
What went right: Pass defense. Illinois held the Golden Gophers to 18 passing yards on three completions. The Golden Gophers had moderate success on the ground, averaging 3.6 yards per carry, but struggled to convert first downs without the aid of a downfield threat.
What went wrong: Missed opportunities. Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase missed a wide open Jon Davis streaking for what would have been an easy score in the opening quarter. Later on the drive, the Illini failed to punch it in the end zone with two plays from the one yard line in the, settling for a field goal. A holding penalty and Scheelhaase fumble ended another promising drive in the second.
Player of the half: Mason Monheim. The linebacker had eight first half tackles, including one for loss. With Jonathan Brown out with an injured shoulder, Monheim took over as the man in the middle who was seemingly in on every tackle.
Stat of the half: Total yards: Illinois, 154, Minnesota 68. Illinois held Minnesota in check and strung together six first downs. While the Illini won most major stat battles, the score remained tied.