Game Day: Nebraska vs. Illinois

More than meets the eye

Former Illinois prep star Jordan Westerkamp isn’t the biggest or fastest, but Nebraska knew he was a catch. “There were times it looked like we could’ve been beaten,” Andriano said. “He’d make a play and we’d come back and win the damn game.” Nebraska recognized it early. After his sophomore year, the Huskers sent Jordan a recruiting letter and a zip disk. Jordan visited for the spring game. He was in awe. The Huskers were his dream school and, even better, they were headed for the Big Ten.

READ MORE »

2-Minute Drill by Sam McKewon

Nebraska rush offense vs. Illinois rush defense

The Illini defense has had success slowing down the run games of Western Illinois, Kent State and Middle Tennessee State, but North Carolina — which resembles Nebraska's old offense — averaged 6.86 yards per carry. NU's current run game has been hot and cold, but offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf has found creative ways to create good plays in the run game. Against Illinois, he'd be wise to lean more on quarterback Tommy Armstrong and designed QB runs.

Nebraska pass offense vs. Illinois pass defense

Armstrong is off to a terrific start, having thrown for 1,266 yards and 11 touchdowns in four games. His receivers had a strong game against Southern Miss, and the Huskers should get De'Mornay Pierson-El back in some capacity. Illinois' secondary — and its whole defense — is much improved from last season. Illinois' pass rush, featuring Jihad Ward, will give NU's offensive line as many problems as Miami did.

Illinois rush offense vs. Nebraska rush defense

The Huskers sell out to stop the run — at the expense at stopping the pass, so even though Illinois has a crafty running back in Josh Ferguson and a better offensive line than it's had in recent years, chances are good that the Illini don't run for more 100 yards in the game. NU dissuades it as much as possible.

Illinois pass offense vs. Nebraska pass defense

NU's secondary and linebackers looked really good for three quarters against Southern Miss and appeared to be a complete mess in the fourth quarter. The back seven have yet to put together a complete game, and Illinois quarterback Wes Lunt is strong-armed and smart enough to take the Huskers apart. Ferguson is one of the nation's better pass-catching running backs, while Geronimo Allison is a strong deep threat. The Huskers' secondary has to figure itself out.

Special teams

Nebraska has been a mixed bag through four games. Made and missed field goals. A few decent punt returns offset by a whiff on an onside kick. Good kick coverage offset by a few punts off the foot of punter Sam Foltz. Nothing has been consistent thus far. Illinois has blocked three kicks already this year and returner V'Angelo Bentley is dangerous.

Intangibles

The Huskers should have a good group of fans who make the trip to the other Memorial Stadium in the Big Ten West. That'll help. But Illinois can play this game a lot looser than NU. What do the Illini have to lose? Nothing; the head coach has already been fired and the interim is a long shot to get the permanent job. Nebraska is going to feel the pressure to win and keep winning, even with a new coaching staff.

Key matchup: Wes Lunt vs. a low-confidence secondary

There's just no way to feel great about where Nebraska's defensive backs are right now, and NU defensive coordinator Mark Banker is already starting to repeat himself on what needs to be fixed. It all needs to look better, and Illinois — with its spread, no-huddle offense — is not really the team to make it easier on the Huskers. But if Nebraska can rattle Lunt, it should win this game.

Our take

Illinois is a bad matchup for the Huskers for a lot of reasons, but mostly because the Illini's offense is diverse and dangerous in the same ways Southern Miss and Miami were. Nebraska's defense may be without linebacker Josh Banderas and defensive tackle Vincent Valentine by game time. Then again, Armstrong is playing the most confident football of his career. He believes he can bring the Huskers back from big deficits and he likes the new offense. That counts for a lot.

Our prediction: Nebraska 38, Illinois 30

Live updates

Videos

Extras

Live: TBL pregame, postgame

"The Bottom Line" pregame show with Mike’l Severe will start broadcasting live at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, then tune in after the game for a complete breakdown and call-in show with Mike'l and Joe Ganz. Click here »

Game notes

Check out a PDF of the game notes for the Nebraska-Illinois matchup provided by the NU Athletic Department. Click here »

Husker History

Find information on every win, loss and tie in Husker history. With historical World-Herald front pages, photos, stories, key stats and more, our ever-growing Husker History Database is your new home for archiving one of the nation's most tradition-rich programs.Click here »

On social media

Check out the Big Red Today page on Facebook to discuss the latest news with the top Husker fans, and follow us on Twitter to get instant updates and analysis whenever news breaks. Plus, look back at historical moments in Nebraska football by following @HuskerHistory on Twitter.

BRT app

IPhone and Android users, get your Husker updates on the go by downloading our free Big Red Today app from the App Store and the Google Play store. Omaha.com/BRTapp and Omaha.com/android

Recruiting updates

Visit the Big Red Today recruiting page to find the latest updates on potential future Huskers, including player cards for those athletes already committed. Click here »

Email alerts

Sign up for the Big Red Today email newsletter to get the Husker news, analysis, daily headlines and more delivered to your inbox. Click here »

Big Ten coverage

Look for additional updates on our Big Ten page to get the best coverage of the conference from both The World-Herald and some of the best writers from across the country. Click here »

Big Red Today coverage

McKewon: Star-studded list of recruits expected to shine under Nebraska's Friday Night Lights

Nebraska will have some of their top recruits in the 2018 and 2019 classes on campus this weekend for the Friday Night Lights camp and Big Red Weekend.

Fiery ex-Husker lineman Richie Incognito doesn't disguise his past, works to share wisdom

Richie Incognito flips his white hat backward and squats into a stance, feet spread wide, eyes forward. His teal Nike T-shirt clings to his barrel chest. Tattoos cover his forearms. Sweat mats his hair.

McKewon: In wake of Keyshawn Johnson Jr.’s leave, there's a lesson in creating illusion of easy celebrity for players

You figure we’d learn. That Nebraska media and fans would pump the brakes when it comes to recruiting and expecting too much too soon from freshmen who are figuring out how to be an adult as they find their place…

Husker commit 'Bookie' Radley-Hiles promises to bring 'greatness' back to Nebraska

Brendan "Bookie" Radley-Hiles feels it's been too long since there was greatness at Nebraska, and he plans to bring it back.

Recruiting: Must-watch highlights show why Huskers offered 280-pound destroyer of middle school football players

Flip on Hayden Conner's highlights and you'd probably wonder what a grown man is doing on a football field with a bunch of middle schoolers.

Recruiting: Top QB target Max Duggan considering return visit for Nebraska's second Friday Night Lights camp

Council Bluffs Lewis Central quarterback Max Duggan, a top 2019 quarterback target for Nebraska, is considering attending the Huskers’ second and star-studded Friday Nights Lights after he performed well at the first one.

Recruiting report: Scottsbluff linebacker Garrett Nelson thrilled to receive Husker offer

Garrett Nelson on Friday had what any high school athlete in Nebraska would consider a fantastic day.

Bob Elliott moves to defensive analyst position due to 'personal reasons,' Scott Booker promoted to full-time assistant

Nebraska safeties coach Bob Elliott has moved to a defensive analyst position due to personal reasons, the school announced Tuesday in a press release, and Scott Booker has been promoted to replace him as a full-time assistant.

Wideout Keyshawn Johnson Jr. taking leave of absence from the Nebraska football program; dad says decision mutual

Nebraska receiver Keyshawn Johnson Jr. — the star Calabasas (California) receiver who signed with the Huskers and was at the center of a recruiting movement in California — is taking a leave of absence from NU's program just six months…

Recruiting: Top Husker OT target Chris Bleich commits to UCLA

Nebraska had 2018 offensive tackle Chris Bleich high on its list of targets, but the 6-foot-6, 305-pounder — who visited for NU's spring game — committed Monday night to UCLA via Twitter.

McKewon: Precious memories provide motivation to Husker pledge Joshua Moore

Joshua and Jordan Moore’s dad had a Father’s Day stuffed with emotions. He’d mourned and rejoiced in one afternoon.

McKewon: Picking top impact players for Husker Camp Countdown is 50 shades of guesswork

Our Husker Camp Countdown begins Monday, and it’s never been harder trying to pick the 50 Nebraska football players we think will be big factors in the upcoming season.

Recruiting: Five quick takes on 2018 WR Joshua Moore's commitment to NU

Yoakum (Texas) receiver Joshua Moore committed to Nebraska Sunday, picking the Huskers over Florida State and Texas A&M. What’s it mean for Nebraska?

Top-100 receiver Joshua Moore announces Nebraska commitment with tribute to late brother

The relationship Keith Williams started with Joshua Moore eventually paid off in a major commit for the Huskers’ 2018 recruiting class.

Nebraska boys athlete of the year Cam Jurgens, Beatrice junior and Husker commit, remains humble despite prowess

He’s the first athlete of the year from Beatrice since Bob Hohn in 1960. He’s also only the fourth junior honored in 67 years, following Gerry Gdowski of Fremont in 1985, Leodis Flowers of Omaha Central in 1986 and Ron…

McKewon: Injuries at Tulane complicate comparisons between Huskers' Tanner Lee, other Big Ten QBs

In Lee’s final season at Tulane — the last data point we have for Nebraska’s new starting quarterback — he played four games, nearly half his season, with at least one finger tied behind his back, if you will.

Storms chase Nebraska's Friday Night Lights camp inside, but some stars still appear

Nebraska’s first Friday Night Lights of the year kicked off under the lights in Memorial Stadium. But within an hour, the coaching staff shifted the event inside before severe storms smacked the city.

Recruiting: Nebraska offers in-state scholarship to 2019 Scottsbluff defensive end Garrett Nelson

For the second straight year, an in-state defensive linemen received a scholarship offer from Nebraska directly after a Friday Night Lights camp.

Big Ten recruiting rankings and projections, June 16

One of our new recruiting features at The World-Herald will be a monthly Big Ten recruiting rankings update. We're doing a second one this month to recap a busy stretch in the recruiting cycle.

Football and free food help fans of all ages leave Huskers’ inaugural Fan Fest satisfied

A short stroll down Stadium Drive was all it took to get a feel for how Nebraska’s inaugural Fan Fest was going. Whether Husker fans or not, those present all spoke enthusiastically about the Friday evening event that felt, looked,…

Sautter: Top in-state players at Nebraska's Friday Night Lights camp, June 16

World-Herald prep recruiting specialist Mike Sautter was in attendance at Nebraska's Friday Night Lights camp and highlights the top in-state prospects at the camp on Friday, June 16.

Big Fat Recruiting Update: Joshua Moore decision day, skipping an RB in 2017 and straight talk about Cam Jurgens' future position

For the 173rd week in a row, seemingly, the talk of Nebraska recruiting has something or other to do with a wideout.

Recruiting: Husker satellite camps lead to offers, early start with 2019, 2020 recruits

The Huskers spread all over the country to work satellite camps and evaluate potential recruits. Here's a closer look at some of those recruits that landed NU offers after their performances at the satellite camps.

Recruiting: Nebraska offers 2021 wide receiver just heading into high school

Nebraska offered a scholarship to a football prospect heading into his freshman year of high school. His name is Dacari Collins and he's from Atlanta, Georgia. He's 6-foot-3 heading into high school. It should surprise no one he also plays…

McKewon: St. Louis satellite camp was so-so; rays of hope for Huskers in Florida

There weren’t any 2018 prospects of note at the Lindenwood University event, but Nebraska wouldn’t have minded if Cameron Brown made an appearance. In his absence, the three-star receiver did make an appearance, so to speak.

Incoming Nebraska receiver Tyjon Lindsey is used to moving from place to place — on and off the field

Tyjon Lindsey has never settled in. Not really.

Recruiting: Cameron Brown decommits from Nebraska day after receiving Ohio State offer

Wide receiver Cameron Brown said Ohio State wasn't the reason he decommitted from Nebraska on Saturday, but the timing will leave Husker fans wondering.

Satellite camp provides Huskers chance for early splash with talented St. Louis-area recruits

Mike Riley is here in the region with a purpose — to continue building inroads for that handful of top players each year who come out of the St. Louis area.

Recruiting: Nebraska reaffirms commitment to St. Louis area during satellite camp

Nebraska's football staff is near the end of its whirlwind week of satellite camps. At Lindenwood University — a pleasant, private Division II school west of downtown St. Louis — there were some good-looking athletes.

Nebraska QB Tanner Lee focused on reps, developing toughness during summer workouts

Lee and nine other position group leaders — established by team vote during winter conditioning — have enlisted Husker strength coaches to install an accountability program that Lee thinks will help Nebraska finish strong and compete for a Big Ten…