Kobe McCrary ran for 153 yards and the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter, and Rodney Smith added 103 yards rushing for Minnesota as the Gophers beat Illinois 24-17 victory on Saturday.
Linebacker Jon Celestin returned an interception for a touchdown in the fourth to provide the winning margin for Minnesota (4-3, 1-3 Big Ten). The Gophers ran for 292 yards as a team and held the Illini (2-5, 0-4) to 282 total yards.
Illinois sophomore quarterback Jeff George Jr. was 18-of-23 passing for 128 yards with a late touchdown pass to freshman receiver Ricky Smalling. Freshman running back Ra'Von Bonner had 18 carries for 57 yards and a touchdown.
Minnesota opened the game with a 72-yard drive for a touchdown, with 64 of the yards coming on the ground. Demry Croft finished the drive with an 8-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Johnson.
Croft earned the starting job over senior Conor Rhoda after sparking Minnesota with three fourth-quarter touchdown passes to Johnson in last week's loss to No. 18 Michigan State. The sophomore quarterback was 5-of-15 passing for 47 yards on Saturday and threw two interceptions.