With the win, the Gophers will likely earn a bowl appearance for the first time since 2009. The Star Tribune projects that the team will play in the Meineke Car Care of Houston Bowl on Dec. 29.
The Gophers' defense set the tone throughout the game, holding the Illini to a field goal after it marched 89 yards on its first offensive possession. The Gophers tied the game at three with a field goal late in the second quarter, and Kirkwood gave the Gophers the lead in the third quarter, capping an 11-play, 51-yard drive with a three-yard touchdown run.
Illinois turned the ball over late in the fourth quarter, and Kirkwood added a second touchdown to seal the victory.
The Gophers have won four straight games at Illinois, according to the Star Tribune. The victory was Coach Jerry Kill's first Big Ten road victory in his two seasons at Minnesota.