MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — John Paddock relieved the injured Luke Altmyer and went 3 for 3 for 85 yards to lift Illinois from a huge hole and deliver the go-ahead 46-yard touchdown pass to Isaiah Williams with 50 seconds left for a 27-26 victory over stunned Minnesota on Saturday.
Altmyer passed for 212 yards and a career-high three touchdowns for the Illini (4-5, 2-4 Big Ten), who had two of their three turnovers in the fourth quarter. They almost committed a fourth when Danny Striggow’s second sack of the game knocked the ball loose and forced Altmyer out of the game. Left tackle Julian Pearl scrambled to recover it.
Facing fourth-and-11 from their 15-yard line with 1:24 left, Paddock — a graduate transfer from Ball State — came in cold with the drive of his life that knocked the Gophers (5-4, 3-3) out of their tie for first place in the diluted Big Ten West Division. Iowa took sole possession with the losses by Minnesota, Nebraska and Wisconsin.
Paddock hit Williams for 22 yards to keep the Illini alive, found Pat Bryant for 17 yards and then called timeout. His on-the-money heave to Williams allowed the junior wide receiver to split the safeties, sprint into the end zone — and make amends for his earlier lost fumble.
Athan Kaliakmanis threw a career-high three touchdown passes, including the go-ahead scoring strike to Daniel Jackson with 5:53 left following the miscue by Williams.
Illinois defensive tackle Jer’Zhan Newton, a projected top-10 NFL draft pick next year, served a first-half suspension for a targeting foul against Wisconsin. He showed up in a hurry after Jah Joyner — who had two of Minnesota’s five sacks — knocked the ball out of Altmeyer’s arm in the backfield before the Gophers recovered at the Illini 12.
Newton made a second-down run stop and sacked Kaliakmanis on third down to force Dragan Kesich’s second field goal of the game that gave the Gophers a 20-14 lead.
Illinois: Hosts Indiana next Saturday. The Illini have lost four straight games to the Hoosiers, tied with 1967-1970 for their longest skid in the series.
Minnesota: Visits Purdue next Saturday. The Gophers have won three of their last four road games against the Boilermakers.