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The Morning After: Illinois

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Huskers give fans hope, but now it is time for Wisconsin

Nebraska v Illinois Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Steven Sipple, Lincoln Journal Star: Lee finds some need rhythm just in time for Big Ten heavies

Mike Riley liked this picture.

He liked most of it, anyway. He didn't like the dropped passes. The ball was on the turf a bit too often in general. But he certainly liked that his Nebraska football team handled Illinois with relative ease Friday night.

He thinks his team played its most complete game of the year in the 28-6 triumph before 43,058 at Memorial Stadium.

Yes, this was a good picture for Riley's program. He needed this win. After all, he's fighting for his job.

He can take a deep breath this weekend, knowing much of the heaviest lifting on the schedule begins next week against Wisconsin and the following week against Ohio State.

Tom Shatel, Omaha World Herald: With Wisky week on deck, Huskers might be ready for the hard stuff

Ready or not, here they come.

And here they come.

Preliminary skirmishes are over. The appetizer portion of the 2017 Nebraska football season is complete. The Huskers are 3-2 and looking a little more like what they hoped they would be — what they’re going to need to be — from this point forward.

The sound you hear in the distance is the heavy machinery of the Big Ten, grinding toward Lincoln. The Big Ten season starts for Nebraska next weekend. And the week after that. And so on and so forth and Purdue and P.J. Fleck, yada, yada, yada.

Wisconsin. Ohio State. Is Nebraska ready? The Huskers don’t have a choice.

Sam Mckewon, Omaha World Herald: After efficient offense, timely defense subdue Illinois, Huskers know heavy lifting against Wisconsin awaits

Maybe Nebraska football should play all of its games on Friday night. (Just kidding, high schools.)

Still, the short week of preparation seemingly suited the Huskers. As it has for the last 14 quarters, coordinator Bob Diaco’s defense did its part, but it was Nebraska’s offense, near-flawless in the first half, that had coach Mike Riley smiling.

NU had just three first-half drives and scored touchdowns on all of them. Not gimme touchdowns, either. Marches of 88, 75 and 89 yards. Twelve runs and 13 passes. NU averaged nearly six yards per carry. Lee didn’t miss a pass in the second quarter.

“I thought it was the most overall balanced game we’ve had,” Riley said. “And if you could put it together where you talked about rushing production and passing efficiency, it was more of a picture that we’d like to say is us.”

Chris Basnett, Lincoln Journal Star: Nebraska guys lead another strong defensive effort as NU stifles Illinois.

As Ben Stille answered questions after a breakout performance against Illinois, the chilly north breeze blowing across Memorial Stadium caused goosebumps to raise on his forearms.

Should Stille and his Blackshirt brethren keep playing like they have been, fans of the hometown kids who make good will start to feel the same way.

"A lot of the program was built around that, just all through Nebraska's history," the Ashland native said. "So we definitely take pride in that, just being the guys from around (Lincoln) and being the cornerstone."

Bob Assmussen, The News-Gazette: Illini can't take advantage of 'wounded' Cornhuskers.

That's two games in a row for Illinois with lackluster efforts and lopsided scores. The blowout at South Florida was understandable. The Bulls are a Top-25 team and on their way to a New Year's Day Bowl.

But this year's Nebraska team came in wounded and in trouble. Its coach might not last the season and the usually-polite fans are booing.Illinois had a chance to put together a home winning streak against a team it hadn't beaten from 1924 to 2015.

Shannon Ryan, Chicago Tribune: Illinois can’t get anything going in Big Ten opener against Nebraska.

The image of Memorial Stadium nearly empty except for red-clad fans chanting "Go Big Red" as the clock expired will long be remembered by Illinois quarterback Chayce Crouch.

"That definitely will stick with me," he said. "I'm sure I'll be hearing that in my head for quite some time. I think it makes me feel the same it would make anyone on our football team or any fan should feel the same way when an opposing team comes in on your home field and disrespects you, that should leave a mark. It should make you feel really bad."