Husker Miscues Loom Large in Loss to No. 17 Illinois
Nebraska rallied to take a 9-6 lead in the second quarter, but No. 17 Illinois responded with 20 unanswered points to grab a 26-9 victory over the Cornhuskers on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
The Huskers had a three-point lead and the ball with less than seven minutes remaining in the first half when Casey Thompson was hit as he threw, resulting in an interception. Illinois returned the interception to the Nebraska 11-yard line and scored two plays later to take the lead for good. Thompson would not return for the Huskers, who managed just 34 yards of offense without their starting quarterback over the final 36 minutes against the No. 1 defense in the country.
After an opening-drive touchdown by Illinois, the Huskers responded late in the first quarter. Alante Brown's 15-yard reception and a career-long 45-yard catch for Chancellor Brewington put Nebraska in scoring position and Timmy Bleekrode hit a 26-yard field goal to put Nebraska on the board with 1:49 left in the first quarter.
Nebraska carried that momentum into the second quarter with Quinton Newsome's second tackle for loss of the game, driving Illinois out of field goal range on the Illini's next possession. That set the stage for Nebraska to take a lead. Brown had a 32-yard catch on the second play of the Huskers' ensuing drive and three plays later, Thompson capped the drive off with 56-yard touchdown strike to Travis Vokolek, who sprinted down the sideline into the end zone.
The reception marked the longest of Vokolek's four-year career and gave Nebraska a 9-6 lead with 9:38 remaining in the first half.
NU's defense continued to hold strong as Isaac Gifford tallied his first career sack with 7:50 left in the half. Illinois' defense responded with the interception of Thompson and subsequent touchdown. Leading 13-9, Illinois added another touchdown with 23 seconds left in the first half on a 12-yard touchdown reception by Chase Brown.
Trailing 20-9, Nebraska drove into Illinois territory on the first drive of the second half but the drive stalled. After a Brian Buschini punt pinned the Illini at their own 9-yard line, Newsome came up with a big play for the Husker defense, recovering an Isaiah Williams' fumble inside Illinois territory with 11:51 left in the third quarter.
With a chance to make it a one score drive, Chubba Purdy, who played the entire second half after Thompson's injury, was picked off on the subsequent drive to give the ball back to the Fighting Illini.
With the football and the lead, Illinois went 70 yards on 13 plays ending with a 36-yard field goal to extend the lead to 14. Nebraska's fourth turnover of the game set Illinois up with a short field, but the Husker defense did not allow a first down as Illinois settled for a 41-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter.
That proved to be the final points of the game, as the Huskers held the Illini to only six points in the second half. Nebraska limited Illinois to only 132 yards in the second half and came up big as three of Illinois' second-half drives started at midfield or in Nebraska territory.
Luke Reimer led the attack on defense with nine total tackles, followed by Marques Buford Jr. and Myles Farmer who both finished with seven.
The Husker offense tallied 219 yards in the first half but were held to just 29 yards of offense in the second half. Anthony Grant carried the ball 12 times for 61 yards in the game while Casey Thompson led Nebraska before his injury with 172 passing yards and a touchdown.
Nebraska stays home with another divisional matchup at Memorial Stadium against Minnesota on Saturday, Nov. 6. Television for the morning or afternoon kickoff (11 a.m. or 2:30 p.m.) has not been announced.
#17 Illinois 26, Nebraska 9
Memorial Stadium (Lincoln, Neb.)
Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022
Attendance: 86,691 (387th consecutive sellout)
First Quarter (ILL 6-3)
ILL – 12:33 – Isaiah Williams 46 pass from Tommy Devito (Fabizio Hinton kick fail), 5 plays, 75 yards, 2:27 (ILL, 6-0)
NEB – 1:49 – Timmy Bleekrode 26 FG, 9 plays, 73 yards, 3:15 (ILL, 6-3)
Second Quarter (ILL, 20-9)
NEB – 9:38 – Travis Vokolek 56 pass from Casey Thompson (Bleekrode kick fail) 5 plays, 93 yards, 2:24 (NEB, 9-6)
ILL – 6:03 – Chase Brown 1 run (Caleb Griffin kick), 2 plays, 11 yards, 0:28 (ILL, 13-9)
ILL – Brown 12 pass from Devito (Griffin kick), 0:23 – 11 plays, 72 yards, 4:08 (ILL, 20-9)
Third Quarter (ILL, 23-9)
ILL – 3:29 – Griffin 36 FG, 13 plays, 70 yards, 7:27 (ILL, 23-9)
Fourth Quarter (ILL, 26-9)
ILL – 11:12 – Griffin 41 FG, 4 plays, 2 yards, 2:00 (ILL, 26-9)
Kickoff: 2:36 p.m. (CT)
Length of Game: 3:10