Ameer Abdullah rushed for 208 yards and three touchdowns against Illinois.
Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

Huskers Race Past Illini

By NU Athletic Communications

Lincoln, Neb. - Husker Heisman hopeful Ameer Abdullah notched his third 200-yard rushing game of the season to carry No. 21 Nebraska to a 45-14 win over Illinois in the Big Red's Big Ten opener on Saturday in Lincoln.

Abdullah, a senior I-back from Homewood, Ala, notched his second straight 200-yard rushing effort and third in five games for the 5-0 Huskers this season, rushing 20 times for 196 yards and three touchdowns in the first half alone, as the Big Red took a 31-14 lead into the half.

Abdullah's big night allowed the Big Red to finish with 624 yards of total offense, marking the first time the Huskers had amassed 600 yards of total offense in a Big Ten Conference game.

Abdullah finished with 22 carries for 208 yards and three touchdowns to help the Huskers finish with 458 rushing yards and five touchdowns on 70 carries. It marked the second time this season the Big Red rushed for more than 400 yards, joining a 498-yard effort in the season-opening win over Florida Atlantic. 

The Husker offense set the tone on the opening drive, as Abdullah carried five times for 60 yards capped by his 12-yard scoring run to put the Big Red up 7-0 just 2:33 into the game.

Illinois answered quickly with Josh Ferguson's 41-yard touchdown run to tie the game at seven, before the defenses controlled the rest of the quarter. Illinois forced a Husker turnover and drove deep into NU territory, but Husker defensive back Daniel Davie answered with a diving interception in the end zone to keep the Illini from cashing in on the turnover.

Abdullah struck again early in the second quarter, capping NU's 10-play, 80-yard drive with an eight-yard run with 13:21 left in the half.

Sophomore safety Nathan Gerry then came up with a big play for the Blackshirts, picking off a Reilly O'Toole pass and returning it 54 yards to the Illinois four-yard line. It was Gerry's first career interception.

Abdullah set a career high three plays later with his third touchdown run of the night less than four minutes later with a two-yard jaunt into the end zone to put Nebraska up 21-7 with 9:52 left in the half.

By that point in the game, Abdullah had amassed 150 yards and three scores on 16 carries. He went over the 200-yard mark on his second carry of the second half to finish with 208 yards on 22 totes.

With the focus on Abdullah, Husker sophomore quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. took advantage on Nebraska's next drive, hitting senior wide receiver Kenny Bell in stride on a 63-yard touchdown strike. The one-play drive took just eight seconds and stretched NU's lead to 28-7 with 8:43 left in the half.

Bell produced his fifth career 100-yard receiving game with five catches for 105 yards on the night, while Armstong finished 10-for-21 for 166 yards through the air while adding 10 carries for 66 rushing yards. 

Illinois responded with a big play of its own, a 58-yard touchdown pass from O'Toole to Geronimo Allison, before Drew Brown added a 29-yard field goal to put the Huskers up 31-14 at the half.

Nebraska pushed the lead to 38-14 early in the third quarter, as junior I-back Imani Cross rumbled into the end zone from four yards out to cap an 11-play, 68-yard drive.

Cross, who finished with 104 yards on 21 carries, added his third career 100-yard game and first of the season, as Nebraska notched its 77th all-time double 100-yard game.

The Blackshirts took it the rest of the way, shutting out the Illini in the second half. Davie helped secure the shutout with his second interception of the game and his career with 8:46 left to stop an Illini threat.

The offense converted the turnover to points again, marching 64 yards on 10 plays capped by Terrell Newby's six-yard touchdown run. The drive was highlighted by a 22-yard connection between Armstrong and Bell to open the drive, before Armstrong converted on 4th-and-22 from the NU 31 with a 25-yard quarterback scramble. Armstrong's run set up Newby's score and pushed Nebraska's team rushing total past the 400-yard mark for the game.

The Huskers hit the road next week to battle defending Big Ten champion Michigan State. Kickoff in East Lansing is set for 7 p.m. (CT) with live national television coverage on ABC.

Scoring Summary
Final: #21 Nebraska 45, Illinois 14
Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014
Memorial Stadium (Lincoln, Neb.)

First Quarter (7-7)
NEB - 12:27 - Ameer Abdullah 12 run (Drew Brown kick), 7 plays, 75 yards, 2:33 - NEB 7-0
ILL - 11:24 - Josh Ferguson 41 run (David Reisner kick) - 3 plays,70 yards, 1:03 - 7-7

Second Quarter (NEB, 31-14)
NEB - 13:21 - Abdullah 8 run (Brown kick), 10 plays, 80 yards, 3:50 - NEB 14-7
NEB - 9:52 - Abdullah 2 run (Brown kick), 3 plays, 2 yards, 1:22 - NEB 21-7
NEB - 8:43 - Kenny Bell 63 pass from Tommy Armstrong Jr. (Brown kick), 1 play, 63 yards, 0:08 - NEB 28-7
ILL - 7:27 - Geronimo Allison 58 pass from Reilly O'Toole (Reisner kick), 4 plays, 75 yards, 1:16 - NEB 28-14
NEB - 2:48 - Brown 29 FG, 11 plays, 70 yards, 4:34 - NEB 31-14

Third Quarter (NEB, 38-14)
NEB - 7:56 - Imani Cross 4 run (Brown kick) - 11 plays, 68 yards, 5:31 - NEB 38-14

Fourth Quarter (NEB, 45-14)
NEB - 4:58 - Terrell Newby 6 run (Brown kick) - 10 plays, 64 yards, 3:48 - NEB 45-14

Final: #21 Nebraska 45, Illinois 14 
Attendance: 91,255
Time of Game: 3:24
Game Start: 8:13 p.m. (central)

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