No. 21 Nebraska rushed for 458 yards, including 72 by the quarterbacks, and threw for 166 more in a 45-14 blowout over Illinois on Saturday night. If you didn’t know any better, you’d have guessed Tom Osborne or Frank Solich were still patrolling the sidelines in Big Red country.
No, Bo Pelini and his Huskers improved to 5-0 in their quest to win the Big Ten West and end the season with something less than four losses.
Ameer Abdullah led the way with 22 carries for 208 yards and three touchdowns. Ninety percent of his work was done in the first half as the Huskers took a 31-14 lead into the break. The senior has now rushed 114 times for 833 yards (7.31 yards per carry) with eight touchdowns, plus five catches for 108 yards and two touchdowns. He has now topped 200 rushing yards in three of Nebraska’s five games.
Imani Cross added 22 carries for 109 yards and a touchdown, and quarterback Tommy Armstrong, Jr., completed 10-of-21 passes for 166 yards with a touchdown and an interception while rushing 10 times for 66 yards. As a team, Nebraska rushed 70 times for 458 yards and five touchdowns. Impressive as it was, Nebraska’s night was still a good bit away from the school record of 677 rushing yards.
Reilly O’Toole garnered the start for Illinois, and struggled throughout the night. He completed only 17 of his 38 passes for 261 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions. He was also sacked four times, and all-everything defensive end Randy Gregory had a hand in three of them.
After scoring to pull within 28-14, Illinois touched the ball nine times. Seven drives traveled 20 yards or fewer, and the other two either ended in an interception or a sack that ended the game.
Illinois is now 3-2, but sits at 0-2 against Power Five opponents Washington and Nebraska; the Illini were outscored 89-33 in those games. However, the healing elixir of Purdue comes to Champaign on Saturday.
Nebraska, however, now braces for a primetime, network-televised showdown at No. 9 Michigan State next week.