CHAMPAIGN — Had it not been for a shoestring tackle late in the third quarter on Saturday against Minnesota, Reggie Corbin would have hit the 1,000-yard rushing mark.
Instead, Corbin was tripped up and that ended his 213-yard, two-touchdown day, which led a 55-31 Illinois win to snap a three-game losing streak.
He sits at 952 rushing yards on the season, and barring injury, will eclipse 1,000 yards at some point in the final three games, becoming the first Illini player to rush for 1,000 yards since Mikel Leshoure did so in 2010.
But Corbin's not counting down and not taking credit for the milestone.
“I think it will mean more to the offensive line," Corbin said. "It will be really good for them to know. They don’t get a lot of credit. They’ll know when that happens that they did a heck of a job. I’m running straight. That’s not that hard. These guys are blocking. Holes are wide open. I just get through to the secondary and that’s like playing one-on-one. What more can you ask for? For those guys right there, that will mean the world to them. I more so want to get that for them."
Other hits on Corbin's day: It was his fourth 100-yard rushing performance in his last five games. ... His 213 yards were eighth most in a single Illini game in program history, passing Red Grange’s 212 rushing yards against Michigan Oct, 18, 1924. ... Corbin is the first Illini with 200 or more rushing yards since Leshoure ran for 330 against Northwestern Nov. 20, 2010. ... Corbin is the third Illinois player in history with two 70-plus-yard runs in one game, joining Buddy Young vs. Pittsburgh Oct. 21, 1944 and Don Johnson vs. Illinois-Normal (now Illinois State) Sept, 16, 1944.
Adams brings a spark back
Safety Tony Adams returned after missing two games with an injury — he has missed four games this season. Adams led the Illini with 10 tackles and three passes broken up. He picked up his second career sack.
"I'm playing all right," Adams said. "I'm going to watch some film and try to get better at stuff. My teammates believe in me back there and the coaching staff believes in me. With that, it makes my job much easier."
Big day for Dre
By this point, everyone knows Dre Brown's story. He's been hit with season-ending ACL injuries in back-to-back seasons.
So on the fourth Illinois offensive play of the game when Brown broke loose for a 72-yard touchdown run, there was emotion flowing from corner to corner of the Illinois sideline. It was Brown's first career rushing touchdown.
Injured receiver Mikey Dudek, who had spent countless hours with Brown rehabbing alongside him, pulled Brown aside.
“It was good," Brown said. "Lots of ups and downs through these years — injuries and coaching changes — everybody was happy for me. Mikey pulled me aside and said he shed a tear under his sunglasses."
Brown rushed for 92 yards on Saturday, moving his season total to 130.
“When you fight back from serious injuries in the way Dre Brown has, everybody is pulling for him," Illinois coach Lovie Smith said. "I know he was happy about that run, but his teammates were more happy than he was if you can imagine that based on how hard he’s worked to get in that position then to persevere."
Smalling steps up
After a monster freshman season, Ricky Smalling has had a fairly quiet sophomore campaign.
But on Saturday, quarterback AJ Bush Jr. found Smalling on a 67-yard touchdown in which Smalling burned past defenders and down the sideline.
Smalling finished with four catches for 86 yards and a score, moving his season total to 264 yards and four touchdowns.
“We talk about some of the things we needed to do better," Smith said. "We needed to get more from our passing game. A lot of the times it’s just on the quarterback, people think, but we dropped some balls. All positions were ready to go. The team was ready to play football. Ricky Smalling was a big part of that."
• The Illini scored a season-high 55 points, their most in a regulation Big Ten game since beating Indiana 55-31 Oct. 18, 2008. Illinois scored 65 at Michigan in 2010 in a triple-overtime game.
• They scored 30 or more points in back-to-back Big Ten games for the first time since Nov. 2013. Both of those Nov. 2013 games were losses.
• Illinois’ 646 total yards are its most since 655, also against Minnesota, on Nov. 3, 2007.
• Illinois had three runs of 70 or more yards for the second time in program history — the other was on Sept. 16, 1944 vs. Illinois-Normal (now Illinois State).
• Illinois’ 430 rushing yards were its most since a program-record 519 against Northwestern at Wrigley Field Nov. 20, 2010 and the eighth most in program history.
Landing a commit
On Friday night, Illinois got a verbal commitment from 3-star defensive lineman Moses Okpala. He's a 6-foot-7, 250-pounder from St. Louis who plays at Ladue Horton Watkins High School.