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Backup QB rallies Illinois to 27-26 win over Minnesota

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Backup quarterback John Paddock threw a go-ahead, 46-yard touchdown pass to Isaiah Williams with 50 seconds to go, and Illinois held on for a 27-26 win over host Minnesota in a Big Ten Conference matchup on Saturday afternoon in Minneapolis.

Williams finished with 13 receptions for 131 yards and two touchdowns to lead Illinois (4-5, 2-4 Big Ten). Paddock entered the game cold off the bench after starter Luke Altmyer was injured on a sack during the final drive, and he completed all three of his pass attempts for 85 yards and a touchdown.

The comeback stunned Minnesota (5-4, 3-3), which failed to secure bowl eligibility. Athan Kaliakmanis completed 11 of 22 passes for 167 yards and three touchdowns.

Altmyer completed 24 of 31 passes for 212 yards, three touchdowns and one interception for Illinois. He led the Fighting Illini onto the field when it got the ball on its own 25-yard line with 2:47 remaining and trailing 26-21.

On third-and-11, Altmyer absorbed a sack that left him roughed up. Trainers attended to him and coach Bret Bielema sent in Paddock, a backup who had completed 12 passes this season in minimal playing time.

Paddock converted the fourth-down play with a 22-yard completion to Williams. He then found Pat Bryant for a 17-yard gain to move the ball to the Minnesota 46-yard line, and he capped off the comeback with a deep touchdown pass to Williams over the middle.

Minnesota trailed by one point entering the fourth quarter.

Kaliakmanis gave the Golden Gophers a 26-21 lead with his third touchdown pass. He lofted a pinpoint pass for Daniel Jackson, who got behind an Illinois defender and caught the ball as he fell into the end zone for a 31-yard score.

Minnesota held on to a 17-14 lead at halftime.

Elijah Spencer and Brevyn Spann-Ford each had touchdown receptions for Minnesota in the first half. For Spencer, a transfer from Charlotte, it marked his first touchdown since joining the Golden Gophers.

Tip Reiman and Williams had one touchdown catch apiece for Illinois in the first half.

After a Minnesota field goal made it 20-14, a big play gave Illinois a 21-20 lead with 10:16 remaining in the third quarter. Kaden Feagin turned a screen pass into a 54-yard touchdown as he darted down the right sideline.

–Field Level Media

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