Nebraska took a dominating ground game along with taking advantage of a cooler, blustery afternoon in Lincoln as they won their 2013 Big Ten Conference opener 39-19 before the largest Homecoming crowd in school history at over 90 thousand in attendance.
Tommy Armstrong Jr, making his second start in place of a injured Taylor Martinez, didn't need to make a lot of huge plays, as he and Ron Kellogg III combined for 186 total passing yards, giving the Huskers a total of 521 on the day.
The Illinois offensive attack, statistically the best in the Big Ten coming into the day, never really got off the ground after a sloppy first half. RB Josh Ferguson did finish with 114 yards on 19 attempts. Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase didn't have a great day, going 13/26 for 135 yards and 1 interception.
Early on, the Huskers were firing well, with a 14-0 first quarter lead after an Abdullah rushing TD, and an Armstrong to Quincy Enunwa TD pass. After trading field goals, Nebraska got another TD from a Cross 2 yard TD making the score 23-3 after a missed Pat Smith XP. Following a Illinois punt, Nebraska got caught trying to be cute on their own goal line and Houston Bates tackled Cross in the end zone for a safety, making the halftime score 23-5 at half.
The third quarter looked good for the Huskers, as Abdullah took an option pitch from Armstrong for a 43 yard touchdown catch, and WR Kenny Bell made a one handed leaping catch for another TD, with Mauro Bondi missing that PAT also. The touchdowns sandwiched a Donovonn Young rushing TD, making the score 36-12 after three quarters.
In the fourth quarter, Pat Smith tagged on a FG, while Josh Ferguson added a late Illinois TD to make the final score 39-19. The last quarter was marked by issues on the defensive front for Nebraska, as there were numerous illegal substitution penalties on the final drive.
The Huskers play the Purdue Boilermakers next week in West Lafayette, Indiana at 11am Central time on Big Ten Network. This will be the first road game for Nebraska this season. After a bye week, Illinois will host the Wisconsin Badgers on October 19th.
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- Nebraska vs Illinois: Huskers Win 39-19 - PostGame Overreaction