Rapid Reaction: Illinois shows its merit in win over Nebraska
There were some in the media that questioned the validity of Illinois’ top-ranked defensive unit. Besides the schedule being a tad soft, the absence of high-powered offenses the Illini had faced made folks skeptical.
Illinois once again silenced the skeptics with a convincing 26-9 win over Nebraska Saturday in Lincoln. The Illini defense pitched a 2nd half shutout and Chase Brown — the nation’s leading rusher — went for 149 yards and a TD as Illinois cruised to take a firm grasp atop the B1G West.
A sold-out Memorial Stadium crowd erupted early in the 2nd quarter after Casey Thompson hit tight end Travis Vokolek with a 56-yard TD to put the Huskers up 9-6. But Thompson was knocked out of the game late in the half and the Nebraska offense struggled mightily the remainder of the day.
Head coach Bret Bielema’s team scored twice before half to go up 20-9. Brown reached pay dirt twice — once on a run, and once on a 12-yard pass from QB Tommy DeVito.
Illini just keep winning
I’m not sure anyone envisioned Illinois sitting at 7-1 overall and 4-1 in the West at the end of October. Especially after a 23-20 loss to Indiana in early September. But Ryan Walters’ defense continues to answer the call. And their performance at each level continues to impress each week.
The defense forced 4 Nebraska turnovers and gave up only 248 total yards. Huskers’ QBs threw 3 picks and were under duress throughout the game.
Meanwhile, the Illinois offense just keeps chugging along. Making very few mistakes and grinding out drives. They did it again on Saturday in a hostile environment. DeVito was cool, calm and collected.
Schedule is favorable
Home games follow with Michigan State and Purdue. Illinois sits squarely in the driver’s seat in the West. It’d be an improbable run, but Bielema and Walters deserve a ton of credit.
Guys up front, on both sides, are playing well. The defensive secondary is locked in and Brown is a workhorse at running back.
Nebraska’s Anthony Grant was held under 100 yards once again. It was the 3rd straight game he was slowed. Nebraska has questions to answer entering this week’s game against Minnesota.
The folks in Champaign have to feel good. It was a methodical performance Saturday. Nothing fancy. It doesn’t need to be at this point. Just win.
Illinois continues to do it and they enter November sitting pretty. In this conference — especially in the West — that’s all you can ask.