Behind a dominating rushing performance and an opportunistic defense, 19th ranked Nebraska moved to 5-o on the season with a comfortable 45-14 win over Illinois on Saturday night at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln.
Wearing their alternate uniforms, there was little changed from Nebraska’s successful offensive formula from a week ago and a 41-31 win over Miami. Heisman trophy candidate Ameer Abdullah was once again spectacular, with 22 carries for 208 yards and three touchdowns as the Huskers took control in the second quarter and never looked back. Abdullah’s 208 yards moved him into second place on the all-time Nebraska rushing yardage list, passing Ahman Green in the process.
Nebraska took the opening kickoff and marched 75 yards in seven plays, with Abdullah capping off the drive with a 12-yard touchdown run. However, Illinois would answer with a 41-yard touchdown run from Josh Ferguson to tie the score at 7-7. Abdullah would add an 8-yard touchdown run and a 2-yard touchdown run on the night before retiring to the bench midway through the third quarter. By that point, it didn’t matter as the Huskers were well on their way to their fourth double-digit victory of the season.
Illinois had no answer for Nebraska’s brand of smash mouth football, as the Huskers rolled up 458 yards rushing and a whopping 6.5 yards per carry. With starting quarterback Wes Lunt out of the lineup with an apparent injury, backup Reilly O’Toole stepped in for the Illini and had a tough time against the Nebraska defense. O’Toole finished the night 17-of-38 for 261 yards, with one touchdown and three interceptions. Conversely, Tommy Armstrong ended his night 10-of-21 for 166 yards and one touchdown and one interception. Kenny Bell added a 63-yard touchdown grab and finished the night with 105 yards receiving on five catches.
It’s the third time this season Abdullah has rushed for over 200 yards in a game. The senior from Homewood, Alabama has racked up 833 yards rushing through five games, with 10 total touchdowns. Nebraska will head to East Lansing to take on 9th ranked Michigan State next Saturday in a potential Big Ten championship game preview. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. in front of a national television audience on ABC. It’s the first time Nebraska has started 5-0 since the 2010 season. Illinois dropped to 3-2 with the loss.