Minnesota-Illinois State Preview

The Gopher football team impressed everyone with their 63-21 win over Toledo in the season opener. Their second opponent, Illinois State, does not figure to provide much of a challenge to the home team. The Salukis of Illinois State won their home opener, beating Saint Xavier 44-14. Running back Demetrus Johnson, a former Gopher, had 17 carries for 161 yards and three touchdowns and quarterback Yance Vaughan, in his first start, completed 13 of 20 passes for 225 yards and two scores.

Demetrus Johnson was named Wisconsin State Player of the Year by the Wisconsin State Coaches Association as a senior. He was a two-time all-state selection with 2,229 yards, 32 touchdowns and an average of 7.0 yards per carry his senior year. Johnson redshirted as a freshman in 2000. He played in final 10 games of the season as backup wide receiver and special teams player and caught three passes for 21 yards in 2001. Johnson gained 55 rushing yards on 10 carries in 2002, but decided to transfer to Illinois State. He played in all 12 games with four starts last season.

Johnson logged back-to-back 100-yard games against Truman State and Eastern Illinois. He rushed for a career-best 159 yards at Eastern Illinois on 20 carries and had 132 yards versus Truman State on 15 carries with a season-high three touchdowns. Johnson finished second on the team in rushing with 609 yards and in rushing touchdowns with six. He was slowed at the end of the season with a nagging ankle injury.

Johnson is not the only ex-Gopher on the Illinois State roster. Pierre Jackson redshirted in 2002 after playing high school football at Chicago (IL) Harper. He played in five games for the Golden Gophers, seeing action on 17 plays at wide receiver. However, he decided to transfer to get more playing time.

Jackson did not play in the season opener, due to a hand injury and might only see some action at defensive back against the Gophers.

The Redbirds finished 6-6 overall last season and 3-4 in the Gateway Conference, one of the top Division I-AA leagues in the country. Illinois State is replacing Baylor, who pulled out their scheduled matchup.

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