Illinois defeats Nebraska after Husker offense sputters in second half
LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) — No. 17 Illinois took control of the game Saturday after a key interception to defeat Nebraska 26-9.
The Huskers seemed to be holding their own through much of the first half, gaining 221 yards against the Big Ten’s top-ranked defense.
But things turned in Illinois’ favor when Casey Thompson was hit while throwing, resulting in an interception.
Nebraska was ahead 9-6 at the time. After the pick, the Illini scored 20 unanswered points.
The Illini scored on the first possession of the game but missed the point-after attempt.
Nebraska’s first drive ended when quarterback Casey Thompson threw an interception, but three plays later, the Blackshirts forced an Illinois punt.
NU got on the board with a 26-yard field goal by Timmy Bleekrode with 1:49 left in the quarter.
In the second quarter, the Huskers added a touchdown with a pass from Thompson to Travis Vokolek, who ran it in the end zone.
But Illinois blocked the extra point, keeping Nebraska in single digits.
Midway through the quarter, Thompson was hit while throwing, and Illinois’ Sydney Brown intercepted the ball.
He took it all the way to Nebraska’s 11-yard line, setting the Illini up for a TD two plays later.
Logan Smothers replaced the injured Thompson on NU’s next drive, which was a three-and-out.
Then Illinois moved down the field with relative ease, going 72 yards in 11 plays for another touchdown.
Early in the second half, Quinton Newsome recovered an Illini fumble at Illinois’ 23-yard line, but Nebraska couldn’t capitalize on it.
Chubba Purdy, who came in at QB for the Huskers, threw an interception three plays later.
Without its starting quarterback, NU couldn’t put together any successful drives.
The Huskers were shut out in the second half for the first time since the 2017 Iowa game.
Nebraska turned over the ball four times, while Illinois only gave it up once.
The Illini outgained the Huskers 367 to 248 and picked up 18 first downs to NU’s eight.
On the ground, Illinois running back Chase Brown, the nation’s leading rusher, racked up 149 yards. Anthony Grant led the way for Nebraska, with 61 yards.