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

With 'opportunity' available for cornerbacks, Huskers searching for jucos to 'come in and take it'

In early March, NU offered three 6-foot-2 juco corners in five days. The Huskers — who graduate corners Lamar Jackson, Eric Lee and Avery Anderson after 2019 — are keen on adding more competition at the position.

Big Fat Recruiting Update: Huskers' 2020 class is small for now, but it's about to heat up

A breakdown of everything you need to know about the Huskers' recruiting efforts, as things are about to heat up for the 2020 class.

Husker DB Cam Taylor has already shown he can do it all. Now he's adding 'a little more kick'

Cam Taylor's smile is one thing. The way he reacts after big plays is another. But his enthusiasm, coaches and teammates say, is what’s contagious.

NFL Huskers Spencer Long, Jeremiah Sirles will host dinner for flood victims, first responders

Former Nebraska offensive linemen Spencer Long and Jeremiah Sirles are among those hosting a Thursday evening dinner in Schuyler for victims of statewide floods, first responders and volunteers.

Carriker Chronicles: Devine Ozigbo embodied the Nebraska way and deserves to be selected in NFL draft

On Wednesday's episode, Adam Carriker talks about why Devine Ozigbo was his favorite Husker to watch last season, why he was a perfect example of the Nebraska way and is a name to watch heading into the NFL draft.

Pick Six Podcast: Is Husker hoops an attractive job? And a spring football update

World-Herald staff writers Sam McKewon and Chris Heady tackle the hottest Husker headlines in the latest episode of the Pick Six Podcast.

Former Husker Brent Qvale re-signs with New York Jets

McKewon: Minnesota's P.J. Fleck rows the boat hard to catch up with Nebraska's offensive flash

Minnesota’s offense, which started eight freshmen in its bowl win over Georgia Tech, averaged 5.68 yards per play last season, ranking ninth in the Big Ten. That’s UM’s highest average in a decade.

Two yards can make or break Nebraska' offense, so Huskers focus on 'plus-twos'

Ask around the offense, and "plus-twos" are as important as any conventional statistic coaches and players track. Moving a defender two yards can demonstrate a strength advantage and extra effort on an individual level.

Former Husker Ameer Abdullah re-signs with Minnesota Vikings

Former Husker running back Ameer Abdullah re-signed with the Minnesota Vikings on Monday.

Carriker Chronicles: If I could bring back any former Husker to play today, here's who I would pick

On Monday's episode, Adam Carriker discusses which players in Husker football history he'd most like to bring back to play for Nebraska today, and which one's would fit the current system best.

Monday Rewind: Older, wiser, more urgent Husker defenders set good tone in spring camp

Twenty-one of the 33 upperclassmen scholarship players play defense. And 11 of that 21 are seniors. Big, bold vocal seniors who have played a lot of football. With that experience comes urgency. Wisdom. Responsibility.

Tony Tuioti offers three Husker football scholarships to Hawaiian three-star prospects

The Tony Tuioti effect for Nebraska football recruiting is in full swing.

Husker safety Deontai Williams learning to play smart, while 'putting his pads on people'

Deontai Williams said, he’s the “OG” of the safety group. He’s right, too — he and junior Marquel Dismuke are the veterans while redshirt freshmen Cam’ron Jones and CJ Smith learn and sophomore Cam Taylor bounces among safety, nickel and…

After 'miserable' first season back at Nebraska, Barrett Ruud expects 'big jump' in year two

His boss got all the attention during last fall’s miserable start, but put yourself in Barrett Ruud’s shoes for a moment. Nebraska’s all-time leading tackler returned to his alma mater and hometown in 2018 to coach his old position —…

Carriker Chronicles: If I could change one play in Nebraska football history...

On Friday's episode, Adam Carriker explores some of Nebraska football's hardest losses, and narrows down what one play in Husker history he'd choose to change.

JoJo Domann is finally healthy and Husker coaches are ready to use Cinco's versatility

JoJo Domann is one of Nebraska’s most versatile defenders. And his coaches need an array of colorful language to describe him. Leaning against a wall on the second floor of the Hawks Center, defensive backs coach Travis Fisher said Domann…

Former Nebraska running back Greg Bell transferring to San Diego State

Former Nebraska running back Greg Bell — who left the program four games into the 2018 season — is transferring to his hometown school, San Diego State.

Husker notes: Defensive line finds 'alpha males' in Daniels brothers; Defense creates pass rush

Nebraska defensive line coach Tony Tuioti wants a consistent daily mindset from his players, where linemen “press the reset button” after each practice to gear up for the next one with the same energy and enthusiasm.

Husker practice report: Defense creating turnovers; Jovan Dewitt discusses battle with cancer

If the first two weeks of spring practices are any indication, Nebraska's defense has some playmakers.

Carriker Chronicles: What Husker fans can expect from the Huskers' D-line during spring football

On Wednesday's episode, Adam Carriker previews the Blackshirts' defensive line personnel for spring football, reasonable expectations for the group and much more.

Cancer can't keep Husker assistant Jovan Dewitt off the practice field

Even if Jovan Dewitt can’t make every meeting — even if, during practice, he has to take a knee and “get some hydration” — he’s going to be at every practice he can.

Recruiting: Iowa D-line commit Logan Jones lands Husker offer

Nebraska has given Logan Jones something to think about. The Council Bluffs Lewis Central defensive lineman tweeted Tuesday he has received a scholarship offer from the Huskers after committing to Iowa last month.

Huskers have a new group of leaders up front. This spring they're finding their voice

It's a spring of transition on the offensive line, which lost several leaders from last year's team. Now a trio of juniors holds that responsibility, and this spring is an important step in their development.

Video: Nebraska spring football practice, March 11

Videos include an interview with Scott Frost, a recap of the the practice by Sam McKewon and Evan Bland and an update on Maurice Washington.

Husker notes: Jaylin Bradley makes most of opportunity; Mike Williams vies for starting spot

Circumstances are aligning for Jaylin Bradley to prove himself. Now coaches are anxious to find out if the running back can.

Husker tight ends need to be a receiving threat. This is how they'll make that happen

Attack. That’s a buzzword for the Husker tight ends this spring. Collectively, they’re the offense's most experienced group. But there’s a higher level the coaches expect these tight ends to reach.

Husker QB coach Mario Verduzco lauds Luke McCaffrey's early progress, Adrian Martinez's velocity

So far, so good for true freshman quarterback Luke McCaffrey. Nebraska quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco said McCaffrey, an early enrollee, has done well in spring practices to pick up the offense.

Husker practice report: Nebraska ahead of last year, but competition heavy on offense

Scott Frost doesn't even want to say the Oklahoma word. But the drill Nebraska threw out in front of the media Monday morning did look a whole lot like the infamous Oklahoma drill.

Timeline details Maurice Washington investigation and when Nebraska became aware of it

This timeline of events in the Maurice Washington investigation is based on allegations outlined in court documents, investigator reports and officials' statements.