The Fighting Illini traveled to Lincoln, Nebraska for the first time since 1986 to take on the Cornhuskers. Playing in a stadium filled with 90,458 Nebraska fans proved to be quite the first road test for Illinois. Nebraska got out to an early 14-0 lead after a fumble by Illinois junior running back Donovonn Young turned the ball over to Nebraska. Cornhusker freshmen quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. found Quincy Enunwa in the end zone for a four yard touchdown. Nebraska never slowed down one bit, running out to a 39-19 victory over Illinois.
Nebraska senior quarterback Taylor Martinez missed his second consecutive game with an injured left toe, but Armstrong once again did a fine job filling in.
After leading Nebraska to a 59-20 win against South Dakota State in his first career start last Saturday, Armstrong threw for 135 yards and two touchdowns.
The Cornhuskers started the game with a full head of steam, getting out to an early 17-0 lead.
After an Illinois three and out on the opening drive of the game, Armstrong let junior running back Ameer Abdullah do most of the work, rushing for 46 yards and scoring on a two yard run putting Nebraska up 7-0 four minutes into the contest.
Abdullah finished with 225 yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground. Nebraska rushed for 335 yards on 50 carries in the game.
Down two scores, Illinois continued to lean on sophomore do-it-all back Josh Ferguson.
Ferguson dazzled and made moves in the open field, busting out a 23 yard run that would give Illinois a field goal. Ferguson finished with 114 yards and a touchdown rushing and added 82 yards receiving.
The Illini’s momentum was short lived as Nebraska continued to drive the ball up the field.
Abdullah rushed the ball for 28 yards on the drive as the Illinois defense had no answer for Nebraska’s run game.
Sophomore running back Imani Cross ran the ball in for a two yard score, stretching it out to a 23-3 ball game with 4:18 left in the half.
A 50 yard punt from Illini junior punter Justin DuVernois forced the Cornhuskers to start their next drive on their own four yard line.
Junior linebacker Houston Bates brought down Cross in his own end zone, giving Illinois a safety. The Illini would trail 23-5 going into the locker room.
Abdullah would find the end zone once again only two minutes into the second half, this time on a 43 yard run, pulling it out to a 30-5 with 12:58 left in the third.
The Illini offense finally found the end zone on the next drive.
Senior quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase started to use short, methodical passes to break down the Nebraska defense, setting up a one yard touchdown run by Young. Illinois trailed 30-12 with 5:54 left in the third quarter.
After Illinois would get the ball back, a Scheelhaase interception would once again halt an Illini comeback.
Armstrong would followed up the Scheelhaase interception with a 37 yard touchdown pass to Kenny Bell, essentially sealing the victory for the Cornhuskers.
Illinois has now been held without a Big Ten win or a road win since a win on October 8th, 2011 at Indiana.
The Illini have lost 15 consecutive Big Ten games and fall to 3-2 on the year heading into their second bye week.