The Huskers and Illini open Big Ten play on Saturday at 11 a.m. on ESPNU
Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

Huskers Open Big Ten Play with Visit from Illini

By NU Athletic Communications

LINCOLN, NEB. | 11 a.m. (CT)

RADIO - Husker Sports Network
SATELLITE RADIO - Sirius Channel 92, XM 190

Record: 3-1, 0-0

Rankings: Coaches-25; AP-RV
Last Game: def. SDSU, 59-20
Coach: Bo Pelini
Career/NU Record: 52-21/6th year 
vs. Illinois: First Meeting

Record: 3-1, 0-0
Rankings: Coaches-NR; AP-NR
Last Game: def. Miami (Ohio), 50-14
Coach: Tim Beckman
Career/IU Record: 26-27/5th Year  5-11/2nd Year
vs. NU: First Meeting

The Matchup
Nebraska opens Big Ten Conference play on Saturday when it squares off with Illinois at Memorial Stadium in the first meeting between the two schools since 1986. Kickoff for Nebraska’s Homecoming contest is set for 11 a.m. CT with ESPNU providing national television coverage.

The Huskers completed non-conference play with a 3-1 record after a 59-20 victory over South Dakota State on Sept. 21. Following a bye week, Nebraska is set to start its third Big Ten Conference season and look for a return trip to the Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis. Nebraska will begin conference play ranked 25th in the USA Today Coaches Poll, while receiving votes in the AP poll.

Illinois also owns a 3-1 record following non-conference play. The Fighting Illini are coming off a 50-14 victory over Miami (Ohio) last Saturday in Champaign. Like Nebraska, Illinois boasts an explosive offense that is averaging 478.5 yards per game and 40.2 points per contest.

Nebraska has been successful in conference openers, winning 35 of 38 league openers. The Huskers have also fared well on Homecoming, including a 4-1 mark under Head Coach Bo Pelini.

The Series
Nebraska and Illinois will meet for the first time as Big Ten Conference opponents and for the 11th time in school history. The Huskers hold a 7-2-1 edge in the series between the two schools, including a 5-1 edge in games played in Lincoln. The last meeting between the teams occurred in 1986, when Nebraska won 59-14 in Champaign. Nebraska and Illinois will play each year in the future with the schools both set to compete in the Big Ten’s West Division. Illinois is scheduled to visit Lincoln in consecutive years before Nebraska travels to Champaign in 2015.

The Coaches
Nebraska: Bo Pelini (Ohio State, ‘90) owns a 52-21 record (.712) in his sixth season. Pelini has guided NU to nine or more wins in each of his first five seasons as head coach, joining Bob Devaney and Tom Osborne in accomplishing that feat at Nebraska. With Nebraska’s win over Wyoming in the season opener, Pelini became the fifth coach in NU history to win 50 games on the NU sideline, joining Dana Bible, Bob Devaney, Tom Osborne and Frank Solich.

Illinois: Tim Beckman (Findlay, ‘88) is in his second season as the head coach at Illinois and his fifth season as a collegiate head coach. Beckman is 5-11 with the Fighting Illini and has a 26-27 overall record. He led Toledo to two bowl appearances from 2009 to 2011. He also spent 21 years as a college assistant, including stops at Oklahoma State and Ohio State.

Nebraska Football
Nebraska is 859-354-40 all-time, one of just eight schools with 800 all-time victories 
- Nebraska has won five national championships (1970, 1971, 1994, 1995, 1997).
- The Cornhuskers have won 43 conference championships.
- NU’s 49 all-time bowl appearances rank third nationally.
- Since 1970, NU has 425 wins, 25 more than any other school.
- Nebraska’s 106 football Academic All-Americans lead the nation.
- The Huskers have 110 All-Americans in school history.

Scouting the South Dakota State Jackrabbits
Illinois enters Saturday’s Big Ten Conference opener looking to snap a 14-game conference losing streak dating back to 2011. While the Fighting Illini have struggled in Big Ten play the past two seasons, they have opened the 2013 season with a 3-1 record, showing marked improvement in Tim Beckman’s second season following a 2-10 campaign in 2012.

The Illini opened the season with an eight-point win over FCS foe Southern Illinois, before an impressive 45-17 rout of Cincinnati. Illinois suffered its lone loss of the season in a 10-point defeat at the hands of No. 19 Washington on Sept. 14. Illinois was off the following weekend before bouncing back with a 50-14 victory over Miami (Ohio) last Saturday.

Illinois’ strength is its offense, led by quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase. The Illini are averaging 40.2 points per game and 478.5 yards of total offense. Scheelhaase is completing 67 percent of his passes while averaging nearly 300 passing yards per contest. He has thrown 12 touchdowns and been intercepted just three times. On the ground, Illinois is averaging 171.0 rushing yards per game, led by Donovonn Young’s 208 yards this season.

While the passing game is the strength of the Fighting Illini offense, Illinois’ pass defense has struggled, although it allowed only 95 passing yards last week while limiting Miami (Ohio) to only 250 total yards, nearly half of the Illini’s season average entering the game. Illinois ranks 97th nationally by allowing 271.5 passing yards per game. Opposing quarterbacks are completing better than 63 percent of their passes and have been picked off only once in 133 attempts. Opponents are also averaging 4.3 yards per rush against Illinois, as the Fighting Illini rank 92nd nationally in total defense, allowing 432.0 yards per game. Despite those numbers, the Illini have done well limiting points, thanks in part to keeping the opponent out of the end zone in seven of the opponent’s 16 trips inside the red zone.

Series History
Nebraska and Illinois are meeting for the first time as members of the Big Ten Conference, as the teams did not play in 2011 or 2012. The Huskers lead the all-time series with the Fighting Illini, 7-2-1. The teams have met only twice in the last 60 years, with Nebraska earning a 59-14 win in Champaign in 1986, and the Huskers claiming a 52-25 victory in the most recent meeting in Lincoln in 1985.

The teams will meet at Memorial Stadium for only the third time. In the first meeting, Illinois earned a 9-6 victory in 1924. NU avenged that loss with a 14-0 victory over Red Grange and the Illini the next season in Champaign, marking the only time in Grange’s career that he was held scoreless in a home game.

Nebraska Head Coach Bo Pelini
Bo Pelini is in his sixth season as Nebraska’s head coach and owns a 52-21 record with the Huskers. Pelini added a Big Ten Legends Division title in 2012 to three straight Big 12 North Division crowns from 2008 to 2010, when Pelini was the the first coach in the history of the Big 12 to win at least a share of a division title in each of his first three years.

He has guided Nebraska to at least nine wins each of his first five seasons in Lincoln, and three 10-win seasons. With the win over Wyoming in the opener, Pelini reached 50 career wins at Nebraska, making him just the fifth Husker coach to reach that milestone, joining Tom Osborne, Bob Devaney, Frank Solich and Dana X. Bible.

Pelini took charge of the Huskers after a highly successful five-year run as a collegiate defensive coordinator, including orchestrating NU’s defensive efforts in 2003. Pelini picked up his first college head coaching victory as NU’s interim coach in the 2003 Alamo Bowl against Michigan State.

Following his one season at Nebraska, Pelini served as the co-defensive coordinator at Oklahoma in 2004, helping the Sooners to the Big 12 title and BCS title game. He then followed with three seasons as the defensive coordinator at LSU. With the Tigers, Pelini led three consecutive defenses to No. 3 national rankings in total defense. He culminated his time in Baton Rouge by helping the Tigers to the 2007 national championship.

In addition to his five seasons as an assistant at the collegiate level, Pelini coached in the NFL for nine seasons, serving three years each with the San Francisco 49ers, New England Patriots and Green Bay Packers. Pelini was a team captain and four-year letterman as a safety at Ohio State from 1987 to 1990.

Illinois Head Coach Tim Beckam
Tim Beckman is in his second season at Illinois, where he owns a 5-11 record. The Fighting Illini are 3-1 this fall and have already eclipsed last year’s win total from a 2-10 campaign. Illinois went 0-8 in Big Ten Conference play in Beckman’s first season, and the Fighting Illini have lost 14 consecutive conference games dating back to 2011.

Prior to coming to Illinois, Beckman spent three seasons as the head coach at Toledo from 2009 to 2011. Beckman posted a 21-16 record at Toledo, including eight wins in each of his final two seasons. Before becoming a head coach, Beckman served as Oklahoma State’s defensive coordinator in 2007 and 2008, after coaching cornerbacks at Ohio State in 2005 and 2006. Previously, Beckman spent time on the defensive staffs at Bowling Green (1998 to 2004), Elon (1996 to 1997) and Western Carolina (1990 to 1995). He earned his first collegiate coaching stint as a graduate assistant at Auburn in 1988 and 1989.

Nebraska Hopes to Improve on Success in Conference Openers
The matchup with Illinois on Saturday marks Nebraska’s first Big Ten Conference game of 2013. The Huskers are 1-1 in Big Ten openers, losing at Wisconsin in 2011 and defeating the Badgers in Lincoln in 2012. Overall, Nebraska is 87-20-2 all-time in conference openers (.807 winning percentage). The Huskers have won their first conference game in 35 of the last 38 seasons dating back to 1975. Bo Pelini owns a 3-2 record in conference openers, with both losses to top-10 teams away from Lincoln. 

Nebraska has been even better in its first conference game in Lincoln, winning 85 percent of its conference home openers (86-13-4). The Huskers’ first two Big Ten home openers have been especially memorable. In 2011, Nebraska posted the largest comeback in school history,
rallying from a 27-6 deficit to defeat Ohio State 34-27. Last fall, NU again came from behind, this time rallying from a 17-point third-quarter deficit to top Wisconsin, 30-27, tying for the second-largest comeback in school history.

Huskers Look for Happy Homecoming
Saturday will mark Nebraska’s 103rd Homecoming game. The Huskers boast an all-time record of 76-22-4 (.765 winning percentage) in Homecoming games, including a 69-16-3 mark against conference opponents (.801). Since 1955, Nebraska has faced a conference opponent on Homecoming every season except 2009 and 2010. The Huskers defeated Wisconsin, 30-27, on Homecoming last season.

Nebraska won 36 straight Homecoming games from 1969 to 2004. Since then, the Huskers are just 5-3 on Homecoming, but NU is 4-1 under Bo Pelini on Homecoming, including four straight victories. In its first two seasons in the Big Ten, Nebraska has knocked off Ohio State and Wisconsin on Homecoming. The 1962 Homecoming matchup between NU and Missouri marked the start of the Huskers’ ongoing NCAA-record consecutive home sellout streak, which will reach 330 on Saturday. During the sellout streak, Nebraska has won 46 of its 51 Homecoming games.

Nebraska-Illinois to Become an Annual Matchup
Nebraska and Illinois are meeting for the first time since 1986, but Saturday’s game marks the first of what will become an annual matchup between the schools. This year, the Huskers and Illinois are competing in the Legends and Leaders divisions, respectively, but starting in 2014 both schools will play in the Big Ten West Division and will meet each fall.

The two will also become accustomed to opening Big Ten play against each other. Including Saturday’s matchup, Nebraska and Illinois will open their conference schedule against each year from 2013 to 2016, while the 2017 meeting will also be Illinois’ first Big Ten game, and the Huskers’ second conference game that season.

Nebraska Tops Big Ten in Wins in First Two Seasons in Conference
Nebraska begins its third season of Big Ten Conference action this Saturday against Illinois. In its first two years in the conference, Nebraska has performed well, posting a 12-4 record in Big Ten Conference regular-season games.

Nebraska captured the Legends Division crown and made a trip to the Big Ten Conference Championship Game in 2012. Overall, Nebraska’s 12 conference victories in the past two seasons are tied for the most of any Big Ten school. The Huskers’ 8-2 record in division play also leads the conference.

Nebraska has won six straight regular-season conference games entering Saturday’s game with Illinois.

Huskers Hit 300-300 Mark Against South Dakota State
The Nebraska offense marked a first in school history in its 59-20 win over South Dakota State on Sept. 21. Nebraska rolled to 335 rushing yards, while adding 310 yards passing, marking the first time in school history, the Huskers have eclipsed 300 yards in both rushing and passing.
- The 645 yards of total offense marked the most for Nebraska in Bo Pelini’s six seasons as head coach and ranked as the 21st most total yards in NU history.
- Nebraska gained better than 300 yards on the ground for the second time this season, and for the 14th time in Pelini’s tenure as head coach.
- In addition to the total offensive explosion, Nebraska also posted 59 points in the win. The game marked the second time in 2013 NU has topped 50 points and the eighth time in Pelini’s six seasons as head coach. The 59 points were the second-most of the Pelini era, trailing a 73-point outburst against Idaho State in 2012.
- The Huskers’ 34 first downs against South Dakota State were the most in the past six seasons under Pelini, and NU’s most since posting 35 first downs against Kansas State in 2007.

Click on the "Game Notes" link in the related links section at the top of this page for more notes on this weekend's game.


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