Game Day: Nebraska vs. Illinois

Switching is seldom old hat

Nebraska's Mike Riley and Illinois' Lovie Smith have each been in the NFL and college, where daily coaching and mentoring of student-athletes differ from dealing with professional players.

READ MORE »

2-Minute Drill by Sam McKewon

Nebraska rush offense vs. Illinois rush defense

Nebraska's coaches openly worry about the “scary” Illinois defensive line, and last season, when Husker offensive coaches did that, it usually meant NU would deviate from the run game if it wasn't working early. But coach Mike Riley and offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf have shown greater commitment to the run this season, and even though the NU offensive line lacks depth — backup guards Sam Hahn and Corey Whitaker are both starting — it should have a size advantage over Illinois' front seven. Quarterback Tommy Armstrong has been dangerous with his legs, and this might be a game where the Huskers' jet sweep comes into play.

Nebraska pass offense vs. Illinois pass defense

Illinois will use man-to-man coverage on early downs and some of coach Lovie Smith's Cover 2 defense on third downs. Thus far, it hasn't worked. The Illini are giving up 8.1 yards per attempt and allowing opponents to complete 67.1 percent of their passes. Those both rank last in the Big Ten. Armstrong has completed only 55.4 percent of his passes, but he's hitting a lot of chunk plays, too, with nine plays over 30 yards.

Illinois rush offense vs. Nebraska rush defense

Illinois played about as rotten a football game as possible against Western Michigan with just 15 carries for three yards. Its running game — featuring Ke'Shawn Vaughn and Kendrick Foster — is better than that and should top 100 yards against the Huskers. But quarterback Wes Lunt isn't mobile in the least, so the threat of the zone read isn't there. Nebraska's front seven should be able to handle Illinois.

Illinois pass offense vs. Nebraska pass defense

Lunt tends to complete a high percentage of passes for very few yards. That's been the case again this season. The Illini have one NFL caliber wideout — Malik Turner — and he gets the ball a lot (15 catches, 223 yards and 3 touchdowns in three games). Nebraska should have a good answer for Turner in junior corner Chris Jones. Illinois has given up eight sacks in three games. Nebraska's defense had four sacks in its last game.

Special teams

Nebraska's special teams was excellent against Oregon, and then so-so again at Northwestern. Consistency has been an issue for the Huskers thus far, but kicker Drew Brown — both on field goals and on kickoffs — has been excellent. NU could stand to get better at punt and kickoff return. Illinois is giving up 26 yards per return on kickoffs.

Intangibles

The Huskers have plenty of reasons to want to beat Illinois, not the least of which is a 14-13 loss to the Illini last season. They'll have the home crowd, a better turnover margin, a better quarterback and a better roster. The only thing working against Nebraska is that it's been a long two months — the death of of a teammate, the arrest of an assistant coach, a weeklong discussion about player protests — and a bye week looms. Nebraska sorely wants to reach that finish line at 5-0.

Key matchup: NU's O-line and TEs vs. Illinois' front seven

If Nebraska can run the ball against the Illini, it's game over. Illinois lacks the firepower to outscore the Huskers, so it needs to shut down NU's running game, and it won't have the benefit of rainy, cold weather like it did in Champaign last season. It's a tall order for the Illinois coaching staff, but Smith is the coach, and he does know defense.

Our take

Can the Huskers keep their eyes on the prize? It was another long week inside the NU program — thought-provoking as it may have been — and this is a team, so long as it can take care of business against the Illini, that could use a bye week to get healthy and process the last two months of their lives. Illinois may be the worst team in the Big Ten. Nebraska may not play its A game, but it won't need its A game to win.

Our prediction: Nebraska 30, Illinois 14

Live updates

Videos

Extras

Game notes

Check out a PDF of the game notes for the Nebraska-Illinois matchup provided by the Husker 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 Red Today coverage

Losing numbers: The stats and figures that defined Nebraska's loss to Minnesota

A closer look at the defining stats and figures from the Huskers' loss to Minnesota on Saturday.

The Wild West or a regulated market? The realities of potential college athlete compensation

There's a debate gaining steam after California passed a law last week opening the door for college athletes to profit off their name, image and likeness.

'Keep it going or pack it up': Scott Frost delivers frank message to Huskers after Minnesota loss

Scott Frost had one hand in his pocket, and the other one was carrying a playsheet. And nothing was fine for the Nebraska football coach.

Shatel: Mugging in Minnesota shows Scott Frost's Huskers still lacking muscle, mindset

P.J. Fleck just shoved his oar right down Nebraska’s throat. People like to laugh at Fleck, the Minnesota football coach, saying he’s a huckster and a fake. Well, there was nothing fake about what Fleck’s Gophers did to Nebraska on…

Huskers 'knocked out of position' as physical Gophers pound Nebraska with ground game

The blank faces said it all. By the time Nebraska defenders trudged off the cold and misty field at TCF Bank Stadium, they had already processed much of the carnage. A 20-point third quarter that blew the doors off a…

Husker notes: Technique hounds NU offensive line in loss; Battling the elements

Offensive line coach Greg Austin gathered his players on the field as Nebraska’s fate was going final. He presented them with two choices.

Video: Watch Scott Frost's complete postgame press conference following Minnesota loss

We'll take you inside the postgame interviews with full video from Scott Frost's press conference discussing the Huskers' loss to Minnesota.

Noah Vedral's first college start didn't go the way he — or the Huskers — wanted

Vedral completed 14 of 23 passes for 135 yards and ran 15 times for 49 yards in the 34-7 loss to Minnesota.

Carriker Chronicles: Gut reaction to Nebraska's loss to Minnesota

On Saturday's episode, Adam Carriker gives his quick take on the Huskers' loss to Minnesota, including the Gophers being the more physical — and better — team.

Even with soft spots disguised as strengths, Minnesota finds room in Husker football's front seven

Minnesota carved up Nebraska’s defense with its run game Saturday night because it spotted soft spots disguised as strengths.

Nebraska-Minnesota: Breaking down the Huskers' performance on offense and defense

World-Herald staff writer Chris Heady takes a look at Nebraska's effort on both sides of the ball during the Huskers' loss to Minnesota.

Nebraska-Minnesota: Three things we learned, three things we still don't know

Three things we learned and three things we still don’t know about the Huskers coming out of Saturday's loss to Minnesota.

Tom's Takes: The Huskers will need to improve — especially in the trenches — to reach a bowl game

World-Herald columnist Tom Shatel shares his immediate thoughts following the Huskers' 34-7 loss to Minnesota.

Quarterback tracker: Noah Vedral has no touchdowns, but leads Huskers in rushing

Each week, The World-Herald will track the Nebraska quarterback's play game-to-game, including wow plays, turnovers, market indicator and more.

Huskers fail to score until fourth quarter in lopsided loss at Minnesota

Nebraska didn't score until the fourth quarter and gave up more than 300 rushing yards in a 34-7 loss to the Gophers.

Huskers gashed on the ground by Minnesota, give up 220 rushing yards in first half

Wan'Dale Robinson carted to locker room after injuring lower left leg

Nebraska was already down one of its top offensive weapons heading into Saturday night's game with Minnesota.

Husker pregame: Adrian Martinez not dressed for warmups; Noah Vedral poised for first start

Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez is not suited up for the game an hour ahead of kickoff and will not play against Minnesota.

A brief 15-year history of first starts for Nebraska quarterbacks

Over the last 15 years, 12 Husker quarterbacks have started games at NU. Noah Vedral would be the 13th.

Ernie Chambers prepares bill to compensate college athletes he calls 'unpaid employees'

Chambers finally sees the NCAA inching toward dramatic reform after passage of a California law permitting athletes to profit from their name, image and likeness.

Georgia defensive lineman Marquis Black commits to Nebraska

Marquis Black publicly announced his pledge to the Huskers on Saturday, two weeks after officially visiting for the Ohio State game.

McKewon: Marquis Black brings versatility to fit anywhere on Huskers' defensive line

Nebraska received a commitment from McDonough (Ga.) Eagles Landing defensive tackle Marquis Black. Three takes on the decision of the 6-foot-4, 280-pounder.

Get ready for Husker football and follow live coverage all day

Check out our preview stories for tonight's game against Minnesota and stay tuned for complete coverage from TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

Shatel: What's up with Adrian Martinez? Is Noah Vedral ready? Let's ask Mario Verduzco

Noah Vedral knows the offense back and forward. We haven’t seen a lot of his game. He got in one game last year. And then last week. That’s the beauty of it, too. There isn’t a lot of film of…

They both have young offenses, but Minnesota can show Nebraska how fast they grow up

The Huskers think a strong second half is coming. Their counterparts in Minneapolis have already experienced it.

$250,000 a year consulting deal for former NU president Hank Bounds draws both concerns, praise

Some regents say it’s a win for Nebraska to bring Hank Bounds back because he is a good fundraiser who knows and cares about the projects involved. Some observers say they are perplexed by the amount he will receive, and…

Former Huskers in the XFL draft pool; Draft takes place Oct. 15-16

The draft will take place Oct. 15-16 with games scheduled to begin in February.

Former Husker Andy Janovich signs extension making him third-highest-paid fullback in NFL

Former Husker Andy Janovich signed a three-year contract extension with the Denver Broncos on Friday.

Video: Sam McKewon's three keys to a Husker victory against Minnesota

World-Herald staff writer Sam McKewon is an expert when it comes to breaking down the Huskers, and each week he'll share what he believes are the keys to victory against their next opponent.

Sam McKewon's Big Ten picks: Kinnick Stadium will be rocking for Penn State-Iowa

Penn State and Iowa have played some classics, but the Nittany Lions are on a five-game winning streak in the series.