World-Herald staff writer Jon Nyatawa breaks down the Huskers’ play on both sides of the ball during NU’s 39-19 win over Illinois.
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TRACKING THE OFFENSE
The game plan: On a chilly and windy day, the Huskers made a point to establish the ground game early. Nine of Nebraska’s first 12 offensive plays were runs. NU overpowered Illinois right up the gut and beat the Illini to the edge. That opened plenty of room for Tommy Armstrong to attack downfield.
The adjustments: None needed. Nebraska seemingly could do whatever it wanted Saturday. And most often, that was simply to run the ball right at Illinois. The Huskers did get a little sloppy late in the game, but by then, they had already sealed a win.
NU star: Ameer Abdullah. The junior I-back had 225 rushing yards on 20 carries, while also catching a key early third-down pass for 15 yards. Of course, he had plenty of help from an effective offensive line, too.
Stat of the game: Nebraska ball carriers averaged 6.7 yards per attempt.
Final word: The quarterback and skill players will get most of the praise, but a physically dominant offensive line is making their jobs much easier.
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TRACKING THE DEFENSE
The game plan: Nebraska’s strategy seemed to be designed around matchups, setting its lineups based on the personnel groupings of Illinois. The Huskers welcomed short throws and running plays to the outside, doing their best to keep everything in front of them. They got pressure on the quarterback when necessary, which kept Nathan Scheelhaase from finding his rhythm early.
The adjustments: Illinois kept mixing and matching its formations, hoping to create confusion. And it worked, in spots. But the Huskers solved most of their problems by blitzing at the right time. The Illini never could figure it out.
NU stars: The linebackers. It’s been an up-and-down season for this inexperienced group. Michael Rose, Jared Afalava and David Santos weren’t perfect, but they combined for 28 tackles.
Stat of the game: Nebraska recorded 12 tackles for loss for the third time in four games.
Final word: The Huskers were hit with three illegal substitution penalties (and one other was declined). They were forced to use a timeout on defense and had several other moments of disorganization. All in the second half. Finishing stronger will be an emphasis going forward.