On third and seven in the 4th quarter, Tommy Armstrong rolled to his right and threw an incomplete pass. It was the Huskers’ 13th failed third down attempt of the day against Illinois, but this errant pass likely cost the Huskers the game.
Illinois took over after a failed fourth down attempt by Nebraska and marched down to the endzone for a game winning touchdown pass with just ten seconds left. And with that drive, Nebraska fell to 2-3 for the first time since 1959.
Both the Huskers and Illini missed opportunities to score on several occasions. Illinois drove inside Nebraska’s 35 yard line three times in the first quarter alone, but came away with no points. Nebraska’s offense couldn’t stay on the field, going 4 of 17 on third down conversions.
“We were not sharp converting,” said Mike Riley after the game. “Basically we had pretty good situations early… we just didn’t convert the intermediate to short stuff and that really hurt us getting any rhythm at all on offense.”
The final failed 3rd down try with less than one minute remaining in the game wasn’t intended to be a pass play.
“It was a designed quarterback run,” said Riley. “I think he just reacted with that pressure and instead of just taking the sack at that point he threw the ball. Incomplete.”
Following the game, Riley also said he believes the team will rebound well from the loss with a good practice on Monday. He said they’ve done that after the previous two losses in the 2015 season.
“You just come together as a team, that’s all we can do,” said linebacker Chris Weber. “Come together, play for each other, play for these coaches, keep preparing week in and week out like we know we should.”
The Huskers defense was improved throughout much of the game. Illinois had just over 380 yards of offense in the game, but through the first three quarters didn’t have a point. Nebraska used a Devine Ozigbo touchdown and two Drew Brown field goals to jump to a 13-0 lead, but the final fourteen points of the game were scored by Illinois, leaving Nebraska with a 14-13 defeat.
Nebraska returns home to host Wisconsin next Saturday at Memorial Stadium. Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m.