Gophers safety Tyler Nubin ties career touchdown record in lllinois loss

Safety Tyler Nubin tied the Gophers’ career interception mark Saturday, but it didn’t mean much to him given the 27-26 loss to Illinois at Huntington Bank Stadium.

Nubin’s pick in the fourth quarter gave him 12 for his career, which ties Jeff Wright (1968-70) and Sean Lumpin (1988-91) for first all-time at the U.

“Not with this loss; I don’t care,” Nubin said of his feat amid the defeat. “I came back to win games. I came back to take us to places we have never been before. I doin’t care about the individual records. Like I said, I will figure that out at the end of the season.”

Nubin, who has four INTs this season, has three more regular-season games and possibly a bowl to set a new record.

Evans returns

Zach Evans returned from a one-game injury absence to bolster the U backfield, but he and Jordan Nubin had a tough day running the ball against the Illini.

Nubin averaged 3.9 yards per carry (19 for 78), while Evans had 2.0 per rush (8 for 23).

The Illini got all-Big Ten defensive tackle Jer’Zhan Newton back from a targeting suspension in the first half. He was a force in the middle after halftime with three tackles and a sack.

“I’m not going to beat around the bush and tell you he wasn’t one of the issues,” head coach P.J. Fleck said. “He’s a very good player. There is a reason why he is a (projected) top five (NFL) draft pick.”

Gophers’ opening drives

For the first time this season, the Gophers scored on their opening offensive possession against Illinois on Saturday. To cap a six-play, 65-yard drive, Athan Kaliakmanis found Elijah Spencer for a 15-yard touchdown against the Illini.

In their opening eight games, the Gophers had four punts, three turnovers and a turnover on downs. They had averaged nine plays on their first four opening series this season, but have been off the field for three or less snaps in the last four games.

Offensive coordinator Greg Harbaugh identified three reasons.

“It’s a little bit of execution and me continuing to get Athan easy completions early and then the third piece of it is the self-inflicted wounds,” Harbaugh said Wednesday. “If we put all those things to bed and we handle those I think we will have more success.”

Kaliakmanis threw an interception return for touchdown against Michigan and Tyler fumbled against Michigan State, which led to an early Spartans’ field goal.

U-turn drive chart

Nebraska — Punt
Eastern Michigan — Turnover on downs
North Carolina — Interception
Northwestern — Punt
Louisiana — Punt
Michigan — Interception
Iowa — Punt
Michigan State — Fumble
Illinois — Touchdown

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