Blackshirts Total Five Sacks in 28-6 Road Win
Champaign, Ill. – The Nebraska football team improved to 2-0 in the Big Ten on Friday night with a 28-6 road win over the win over the Illinois Fighting Illini in front of a national television audience on FS1. The Husker offense totaled 411 yards on the night, while the Blackshirts held the Illini to 199 yards.
The Blackshirts have now held three straight opponents to 250 yards or less of offense, the first time the unit has done that over a three-game stretch since 2003 (Oklahoma State, Utah State, Penn State). NU’s defense notched season highs in both tackles for loss and sacks with 10 and five, respectively.
Nebraska’s defense last allowed six points or less on the road in 2006 when the Huskers beat Kansas State in Manhattan, 21-3.
Nebraska’s offense included 246 yards and three touchdowns from quarterback Tanner Lee on 17-for-24 passing, while Devine Ozigbo accounted for 106 of NU’s 165 rushing yards. The 106 yards were a career high for Ozigbo and the junior has put together back-to-back 100-yard games after running for 101 yards last week against Rutgers. Mikale Wilbon added 60 yards on 13 carries, an average of 4.6 yards per carry.
After missing last week’s game due to an injury, Stanley Morgan Jr. returned to the lineup and caught a career-high eight passes for 96 yards, including a 23-yard touchdown. In the four games he has played this season Morgan has caught at least five passes in each game.
The Illini got the ball to start the game and after the Blackshirts forced a punt the Husker offense took over on its own 12-yard line. Lee led the Huskers on a eight-play drive that was capped by a 45-yard touchdown pass to De'Mornay Pierson-El, his fourth TD of the season. Pierson-El would catch three balls in the first half for 84 yards and ended the night with four catches for 94 yards.
The Illini responded with a 15-play drive that ate nine minutes off the clock. Illinois had 1st-and-goal at the three, but the Blackshirts stiffened and held the Illini to a field goal. The biggest play of the drive came on 2nd-and-goal when redshirt freshman Ben Stille pulled down quarterback Chayce Crouch for a five-yard loss. It was the Ashland, Neb., native’s second tackle for loss of the first half. Stille ended the game with three tackles for loss, a season high for a Husker defender this season.
Nebraska’s offense got the ball back and Lee again led a scoring drive, and he was a perfect 5-for-5 on the drive for 52 yards. Ozigbo ended the drive with a 15-yard tackle-breaking touchdown run down the sideline and following the PAT the Husker lead was 14-3. The Illini then held the ball for the next 4:13, but only moved the ball 20 yards.
Still leading 14-3, Lee and the Huskers got the ball back with 6:25 left in the first half at their own 11-yard line. Lee was again perfect on the drive, going 4-for-4 with completions to four different receivers. After Wilbon broke off a 15-yard run that gave NU 1st-and-goal at the six-yard line, Lee finished the 89-yard drive with a six-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Hoppes, the senior tight end’s first career touchdown as a Husker.
Lee was 11-for-13 in the first half for 167 and two touchdowns, including a perfect 9-for-9 in the second quarter for 110 yards.
Trailing 21-3 and 1:23 left in the half the Illini reached midfield, but were unable to cut into NU’s lead as Crouch’s Hail Mary attempt to end the half was intercepted by Chris Weber, the senior’s first career interception. On the night, Crouch was 9-for-15 for 99 yards and ran for 37 yards on 18 carries.
The Huskers totaled 252 yards of offense in the first half and scored on all three of their drives, with each drive covering 75 yards or more.
Nebraska got the ball to start the second half and the Illini defense delivered its first stop of the night as it came through with a quick 3-and-out. The Illini offense put together a 12-play drive, but were unable to get the ball in the end zone. Illinois had 1st-and-goal, but the Blackshirts again rose to the occasion and forced the Illini to settle for a field goal.
Illinois quickly got the ball back in Nebraska territory following a fumble by Ozigbo, but the offense didn’t pick up a yard. Stille notched a sack on first down, Crouch ran for no gain on second down before Carolos Davis delivered a 12-yard sack on third down to force a punt.
Nebraska’s offense got back in rhythm and strung together a 93-yard scoring drive that lasted 14 plays over 6:27. Lee polished the drive with his third touchdown pass of the game, a 23-yard delivery to Morgan Jr., who stiff-armed a Illini defender during the final 10 yards into the end zone.
Illinois got the ball twice more in the fourth quarter, but managed just one first down the rest of the way. The Huskers got the ball with 6:54 left in the fourth quarter and never gave the ball back. Ozigbo carried the ball 11 times on the final drive and churned out 62 yards
The Huskers will be back at home next Saturday for a 7 p.m. showdown with the Wisconsin Badgers at Memorial Stadium, with nation television coverage provided by BTN.
Nebraska 28, Illinois 6 Friday, Sept. 29, 2017 Memorial Stadium (Champaign, Ill.)
First Quarter (NEB 7-0)
NEB – 8:57 – Pierson-El 45 pass from Tanner Lee (Brown kick), 8 plays, 88 yards, 3:08, NEB 7-0
Second Quarter (NEB 21-3)
ILL – 14:57 - McLaughlin 25 FG, 15 plays, 64 yards, 9:00, NEB 7-3
NEB – 10:38 - Devine Ozigbo 15 run (Brown kick), 8 plays, 75 yards, 4:19, NEB 14-3
NEB – 1:23 - Tyler Hoppes 6 pass from Tanner Lee (Brown kick), 9 plays, 89 yards, 5:02, NEB 21-3
Third Quarter (NEB 21-6)
ILL - 14:07 – McLaughlin 25 FG, 12 plays, 46 yards, 5:35, NEB 21-6
NEB – 7:49 – Stanley Morgan Jr. 23 pass from Lee (Brown kick), 14 plays, 93 yards, 6:27, NEB 28-6
Kickoff (TV): 7:05 p.m. (FS1)
Time of Game: 3:05