Another Early Double-Digit Deficit Buries Illini Against Nebraska, 20-7

By IlliniGuys Staff

October 6, 2023

(Cover photo courtesy Illinois Athletics)

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Visiting Nebraska took advantage of a pair of Illinois miscues deep in their own end of the field and the Illini offense again struggled to find the end zone as the Cornhuskers score a 20-7 win in Big Ten play Friday night.

Illinois (2-4, 0-3) took the opening drive 74 yards down the field, only to be stopped on a 4th and 1 play at the Nebraska 1-yard line.

The Huskers took control from there.  After a field goal on their first series, Nebraska (3-3, 1-2) scored its first touchdown on a one-yard run by Anthony Grant.  Then on the ensuing kickoff, the Huskers took possession when Illinois failed to field the ball on a squib play on their own 25-yard line.  Nebraska quarterback Heinrich Haarberg ran it in on the next play and the Cornhuskers took a quick 17-0 lead with a pair of touchdowns just ten seconds apart.

The sequence continued what has been an embarrassing trend for Illinois, as they have fallen behind by 10 points in every game this season; 19-7 to Toledo, 21-0 at Kansas, 29-7 to Penn State, 10-0 to Florida Atlantic, 23-13 to Purdue, and the 17-0 deficit tonight.

The Illinois offense responded with its first scoring drive, capped by Luke Altmyer's 46-yard touchdown pass to Pat Bryant to make it 17-7.  Caleb Griffin missed a 55-yard field goal attempt in the final seconds of the half to leave the Illini with a 10-point deficit at halftime.

The teams came out of their locker rooms after intermission, but the Illini offense stayed inside.  Just 38 yards and one first down in the 3rd quarter for Illinois as the visitors extended their lead to 20-7.

The Illinois defense came alive in the 4th quarter.  Kenenna Odeluga recovered an Emmett Johnson fumble to stop a Nebraska drive at the Illini 12-yard line, but the Illinois offense managed a three-and-out and were forced to punt.  Then on the next series, Xavier Scott intercepted Haarberg, but that was followed up by Illini quarterback Luke Altmyer throwing an interception to thwart that drive.  Nebraska fumbled the ball yet again at the Illinois 15-yard line, but an extended Illinois drive fizzled on the Huskers' 18-yard line and so did their chances for a come-from-behind victory.

The Illinois running game hit an all-time low in the Bret Bielema era.  Just 21 yards on the ground to fall short of the 22 rushing yards against Mississippi State in the RealiQuest Bowl in Tampa last January.

The Huskers win gives first-year coach Matt Rhule his first road win as head of the program.  Nebraska had lost at Minnesota and Colorado in successive weeks to open the season.

Altmyer finished with 289 yards on 29-of-47 passing as Illinois has now lost eight of their last nine games against Power 5 opponents since posting a 26-9 at Nebraska last October.  And it doesn't get any easier with a trip next weekend to Maryland.  The Terrapins are 5-0 for the first time since 2001 heading into tomorrow's East Division matchup at Ohio State.

Stay with IlliniGuys.com for complete postgame coverage.

 

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