Rapid Reaction: Illinois dominates with massive win over Nebraska as Brandon Peters returns to action
Final Score: Illinois 41, Nebraska 23
Brief Recap: In a game between two teams coming off their first win of 2020, it didn’t take long for things to go wrong for Nebraska. It started on the first play from scrimmage when Luke McCaffrey threw a late and ill-advised pass that was ruled a lateral on the field. Replays appeared to show the pass being slightly forward, but it was never reviewed with Illinois recovering. After that, the Illini scored 28 first-half points, their best total in a half in nearly a decade, before finishing off a truly dominant performance over Nebraska.
Key Player: We have to split this between running back Chase Brown and quarterback Brandon Peters. Though backup Isaiah Williams led the Illini to a win over Rutgers, it was definitely a boost getting Peters back in the lineup. He went 18-for-25 passing with 205 yards and a touchdown without an interception. He added 36 rushing yards and another touchdown. For Brown, he finished with 110 yards and two first-quarter touchdowns, helping Illinois jump out to the lead it would carry all game long.
Key Moment: It came early, right after Illinois had scored to make it a 14-7 lead. On Nebraska’s ensuing possession, Luke McCaffrey threw an interception on a fourth-down play for the Huskers. That gave the ball back to Illinois around midfield with Brandon Peters throwing a touchdown off of that possession to make it 21-7, Illini. Not only was it the turning point of the game with Nebraska never able to get closer than 11 points, but the turnover was a harbinger of things to come in the contest. McCaffrey finished with three interceptions and the lost fumble in the game.
Key Stat: 17, points off of turnover for Illinois. “Lovie Ball” as it is affectionately called in Champaign was on full display with five turnovers forced by the Illini defense. Illinois ended the half following one of those takeaways or the number of points scored off of turnovers maybe even higher. Nebraska forced just one point on an Illinois drive that followed a Husker turnover.
What it means for Illinois: At 2-3, Illinois has responded from a slow start in an impressive fashion, but the rest of the schedule gets much tougher for Lovie Smith and company. Illinois must face Ohio State, Iowa, and Northwestern before the season-ending crossover game, meaning it will still be a tall task to try and finish with a winning record in 2020.
What it means for Nebraska: At 1-3, this season appears headed for an ugly finish. The Huskers must now play at Iowa, at Purdue, and vs Minnesota to finish the season. A win over Illinois would have changed the perspective for the finish to the season, but it is entirely possible that Nebraska is an underdog in every game the rest of the way. None of the remaining contests will be easy, and it’s entirely possible the Huskers finish with just one win before the crossover game.