Lincoln - Ameer Abdullah rushed for a career-high 225 yards and two touchdowns to lead Nebraska to a 39-19 Big Ten-opening win over Illinois on Homecoming at Memorial Stadium on Saturday.
With the victory, in front of the NCAA-record 330th consecutive sellout at Memorial Stadium, the Huskers improved to 4-1 on the season and 1-0 in the Big Ten. Illinois slipped to 3-2 overall and 0-1 in the conference.
Abdullah carried the load throughout the day for the Huskers, powering a Nebraska rushing attack that amassed 335 yards on the ground. Abdullah carried 20 times, including a highlight reel 43-yard touchdown run on NU's opening drive of the second half to put the Huskers up 30-5. He also opened the scoring for the Big Red with a two-yard run on the Huskers' opening drive of the game, to help spark a quick 17-0 NU lead.
Adullah added a 15-yard reception on the day to account for 240 all-purpose yards, while Nebraska rolled up 521 yards of total offense against the Illini. Imani Cross added 76 yards and a second-quarter touchdown run on 15 carries, while freshman Terrell Newby pitched in 19 yards on four carries.
Quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. had another solid performance in his second career start. The redshirt freshman completed 8-of-13 passes for 135 yards and two scores, while adding nine carries for 18 yards on the ground. Armstrong's four-yard pass to senior wide receiver Quincy Enunwa midway through the second quarter put the Huskers up 14-0. He added a spectacular 37-yard connection with junior wide receiver Kenny Bell in the third quarter to give the Huskers a 36-12 lead at the end of three quarters.
Enunwa finished the day with four catches for 80 yards, while crossing the 1,000-yard receiving mark for his career. Bell added four catches for 65 yards. Redshirt freshman tight end Sam Cotton added the first catch of his career, while fellow tight end Jake Long pitched in one catch for nine yards.
Senior quarterback Ron Kellogg III added 51 yards passing, while completing 3-of-6 attempts.
The Blackshirts provided a solid defensive presence, holding the Fighting Illini to just 10 offensive points until the final minute of the game. Illinois finished with 372 total yards, including 195 on the ground and 177 through the air. The Blackshirts held quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase to just 13-of-26 passing for 135 yards, while limiting Scheelhaase to just 11 yards on nine carries.
Josh Ferguson carried 19 times for 114 yards and a score to lead the Illini, while adding eight receptions for 82 yards out of the backfield.
Redshirt freshman linebacker Michael Rose led the Husker defense with 11 tackles, while junior safety Corey Cooper added 10 stops with a TFL. Sophomore Randy Gregory wreaked havoc from his defensive end spot throughout the day with eight tackles, including a TFL and a quarterback hurry.
Senior defensive back Ciante Evans also made plays all over the field, including forcing a fumble on the Illini's first drive that helped the Huskers jump to a 14-0 lead. Evans, who finished with four tackles, notched a sack among his two tackles for loss while adding a pass breakup and a quarterback hurry.
Defensive end Jason Ankrah added two tackles for loss and a sack, while pulling down an interception on pass hurried by Evans in the second half.
Nebraska hits the road for the first time next week, when the Huskers continue Big Ten Conference action at Purdue. Kickoff at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette, Ind., is set for 11 a.m. with live national television coverage by the Big Ten Network. The game will be Nebraska's first against Purdue since joining the Big Ten Conference, and the first trip to West Lafayette since 1958.
Final: Nebraska 39, Illinois 19
Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013
Memorial Stadium (Lincoln, Neb.)
First Quarter (NEB, 14-0)
NEB - 11:06 - Ameer Abdullah 2 run (Pat Smith kick), 7 plays, 57 yards, 2:16 - NEB 7-0
NEB - 5:53 - Quincy Enunwa 4 pass from Tommy Armstrong Jr. (Smith kick) - 10 plays, 69 yards, 3:30 - NEB 14-0
Second Quarter (NEB, 23-5)
NEB - 13:04 - Smith 27 FG - 8 plays, 62 yards, 2:36, NEB 17-0
ILL - 7:50 - Taylor Zalewski 38 FG - 14 plays, 72 yards, 5:09, NEB 17-3
NEB - 4:17 - Imani Cross 2 run (Smith kick failed) - 10 plays, 71 yards, 3:26, NEB 23-3
ILL - 1:44 - Houston Bates safety, NEB 23-5
Third Quarter (NEB, 36-12)
NEB - 12:58 - Abdullah 43 run (Mauro Bondi kick) - 4 plays, 75 yards, 2:02, NEB 30-5
ILL - 5:54 - Donovonn Young 1 run (Zalewski kick) - 14 plays, 75 yards, 7:04, NEB 30-12
NEB - 2:44 - Kenny Bell 37 pass from Armstrong Jr. (Bondi kick failed) - 3 plays, 39 yards, 0:38, NEB 36-12
Fourth Quarter (NEB, 39-19)
NEB - 5:16 - Smith 32 FG - 8 plays, 53 yards, 4:27, NEB 39-12
ILL - 0:57 - Josh Ferguson 1 run (Zalewski kick) - 12 plays, 75 yards, 4:19, NEB 39-19
Final: Nebraska 39, Illinois 19
Time of Game: 3:24
Game Start: 11:02 a.m. (central)