Why were the Gophers down 28-7 at halftime when Fighting Illini starting quarterback Juice Williams left the game in the first quarter with an ankle injury and never returned?
And they were at home with a chance to become bowl eligible during this inexplicable attempt at a must-win performance in a must-have, better-not-lose game?
Did a "pro style" offense really revert to play action on a second-and-goal and end up with a sack and field goal instead of a touchdown that would have potentially given Minnesota a one-point victory?
Like a 5-year-old boy who saw his dad putting presents under the tree while dressed in a Santa suit the night before Christmas, Gophers supporters are too big for the make-believe moral victories that masked some the earlier should-have-had-it losses on Minnesota's resume.
So what Minnesota outscored Illinois 25-7 in the second half? The Gophers lost.
In a two-week span, the Gophers managed to exceed and miss expectations, albeit in reverse order. Michigan State was the question mark. Illinois was the "gimme."
A Gophers team that's still seeking an identity with just two games to go doesn't have any guarantees going forward. Not against South Dakota State Saturday. Or a hobbling Iowa team on the road in the finale. Or against whatever opponent they might face in a bowl – if they're lucky.
GAME BALL GOES TO: QB Adam Weber – Although he put Minnesota in a tough spot with a crucial turnover, the junior regained his poise in the second half and put the Gophers in a position to win.
KEEP AN EYE ON: WR Brandon Green – The sophomore had another post-Decker successful outing Saturday, when he finished with four catches for 64 yards. He's lined up to become Weber's No. 1 target in 2010.
LOOKING GOOD: QB Adam Weber picked up the pace in the second half, when his team needed him most. Two Minnesota running backs, Jon Hoese and Kevin Whaley, found the end zone against Illinois. On special teams, KR/WR Troy Stoudermire averaged 24.0 yards per return. And WR Ben Kuznia returned a blocked punt for a touchdown in the second half.
STILL NEEDS WORK: Weber was sacked a career-high seven times, in part because of an offensive line that didn't hold up. K Eric Ellestad put two kickoffs out-of-bounds. A vulnerable Gophers secondary gave up 238 passing yards and a pair of touchdowns against the Big Ten's worst passing offense, even though the unit didn't have its starter for three-plus quarters.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'm more frustrated at myself than I think the crowd is. I can't boo myself, that's the difference. The fans demand a great performance, and I don't blame them." – QB Adam Weber told the Star Tribune in response to a question about boos from the crowd in Saturday's 35-32 loss against Illinois.