“Did you all stay around for the fourth quarter?” quipped head coach Mike Riley after Nebraska’s 31-16 win over Illinois.
Nebraska trailed 16-10 going into the fourth quarter Saturday against Illinois, but were about to assert the same dominance in the final period they had in every other game so far this season.
The Huskers regained the lead after a massive, 18-play, 10:42 drive ending with a Terrell Newby touchdown run. The drive is the longest in terms of time in the last 15 years for Nebraska. The drive also gave the Husker defense an opportunity to collect itself after having allowed Illinois to score on four of the last five drives.
“The one thing that I felt like was that they hardly had the ball in the second half,” said Riley.
Following Nebraska’s long drive to regain the lead 17-16, the Husker defense did not allow another first down for the rest of the game.
“It’s huge when the offense is down there taking all of the time up and getting us rest,” said sophomore linebacker Dedrick Young. “It plays a big part for us to stay fresh out there.”
Nebraska dominated the time of possession for the game 38:01 to 21:59. Illinois only ran 44 plays in the game and did not convert a third or fourth down in the second half.
“Toward the end of the game I think we start to see things a little better,” senior safety Nathan Gerry said. “The adjustments we made from halftime, I think that allowed us to maybe line up a little better. I think we just covered things toward the end a little better and made plays.”
Offensively, the Huskers controlled the second half on the ground. Senior I-back Terrell Newby rushed for a season high 140 yards on 27 carries. 113 of those yards came in the fourth quarter, along with two touchdowns.
“I’m really proud of our offensive line, and how they stepped up with a lot of guys going down,” said Newby. “Those young guys stepped up.”
Between Newby’s two fourth quarter touchdowns, Tommy Armstrong Jr. found Trey Foster in the end zone for a six-yard touchdown pass. Armstrong threw for 220 on 16/23 passing with one touchdown and one interception.
During the game, senior wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp left with injury. Westerkamp caught a pass, was hit in the back and immediately signaled for help from the training staff. Riley said he hopes Westerkamp will be alright, but said he was taken to the hospital as a precaution.
Nebraska is now 5-0 on the season with a bye week next week. The Huskers take on Indiana on the road on October 15.