Illinois postgame nuggets
Here are some quick notes to pass along from Nebraska’s postgame press conference following its 28-6 win over Illinois on Friday night…
***Head coach Mike Riley called the win Nebraska’s “most overall balanced game we’ve had” in all three phases of the game. With the combination of rushing production and passing efficiency, Riley “that was the picture of what we’d like to say is us” offensively.
***Riley said he was really proud of the defense and how it was able to step up and keep Illinois out of the end zone, even when backed up against the end zone. “I thought the defense rose up all day long… Our ability to keep them out of the end zone was beautiful.”
***Riley said he briefly debated settling for a field goal on the fourth-and-1 play to open the fourth quarter, especially with getting the win at their backs after the field change at the end of the third. Riley decided to go for it because he was confidence the offense would get the first down.
***Riley said he thought Stanley Morgan’s neck injury was still bothering him during the game, which could have played a part in his drops. But he credited Morgan for playing through it and coming up with some huge catches and plays.
***Offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf said he thought Lee was “excellent” in the win, as he made good decisions and throws all night and probably should have had even better numbers had it not been for all of the dropped passes.
***Langsdorf said the decision to start Michael Decker and Brenden Jaimes again tonight was partly due to the injury situations at those positions, but also because of how good they feel about that starting five combination. It sounds like NU is going to role with that group going forward.
***Langsdorf said “we haven’t crossed that issue yet” as far as what the running back rotation will look like once Tre Bryant returns from his knee injury. They’ll evaluate the situation once Bryant actually gets back into the mix.
***Nebraska’s defense didn’t allow a play of more than 19 yards all night, and defensive coordinator Bob Diaco said that was exactly what the game plan called for going in. He credited the players for picking up the plan so well on a short week and executing it at the level they did.
***With Nebraska coming off a short week and Illinois coming off a bye, Diaco said they definitely saw some new wrinkles from the Illini offense. Diaco said the staff really “drilled down” on preparing for trick plays and new looks during the week.
***Diaco said the five sacks against Illinois was all on the players making plays.
***Diaco said Ben Stille was one player the staff talked about a few weeks ago as someone who needed to play more, and his role has continued to grow since then. Riley said Stille was kind of a “prototype” for what they want in a 3-4 defensive end, and he’s really elevated his game the past few weeks.
Additional game notes
***Nebraska won its second straight Big Ten game to open conference play, marking the second straight year NU has started league play 2-0. The Huskers improved to 3-4 in Big Ten road openers, including wins each of the past two seasons. NU also improved to 11-3-1 all-time Illinois, including 4-1 with both schools as members of the Big Ten Conference. The Huskers are now 3-2-1 all-time against the Illini in Champaign.
***Nebraska scored touchdowns on all three of its drives in the first half of tonight’s game, a first for the Huskers in the Big Ten era (since 2011). The last time Nebraska scored touchdowns on its first three drives of the game was in a 38-9 victory over Arkansas State on Sept. 12, 2009.
***Nebraska had three touchdown drives of at least 85 yards in tonight’s game—an 88-yard touchdown drive on its first possession of the game, an 89-yard scoring drive in the second quarter, and a 93-yard drive spanning the third and fourth quarters. Nebraska now has six drives this season of at least 85 yards.
***Quarterback Tanner Lee completed 10 consecutive passes spanning from his final throw of the first quarter to his first pass of the third quarter. Lee was 9-of-9 for 110 yards and a touchdown in the second quarter alone. Lee finished the game 17-of-24 for 246 yards and three touchdowns, posting the best quarterback rating of his collegiate career (198.2) and his second-highest completion percentage and his top mark at Nebraska. Lee also matched his Nebraska career high with three touchdown passes in the game.
***Senior De’Mornay Pierson-El caught a 45-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter, marking the second-longest reception of his career. Pierson-El had a 46-yard catch at Northwestern in 2014. Pierson-El’s touchdown was his fourth touchdown reception of the season and his 10th career receiving touchdown. Pierson-El finished the game with 94 receiving yards, pushing his career total to 990 yards, leaving him 10 yards shy of 1,000 career receiving yards.
***Nebraska limited Illinois to 199 total yards, marking the third straight game the Huskers have held the opponent to fewer than 250 yards. This marks the first time the Blackshirts have limited three straight opponents to less than 250 yards since a three-game stretch to open the 2003 season against Oklahoma State, Utah State and Penn State.
***Nebraska has held its past two opponents under 200 yards while recording the top two total defense efforts under Riley in the past two weeks. The Huskers have posted three of the top four efforts under Riley in the past three weeks.
***Nebraska recorded seasons highs in both tackles for loss (10) and sacks (5.0) in tonight’s game.
***Nebraska held Illinois to just six points in the win. The six points are the fewest allowed in Mike Riley’s three seasons and mark the fewest points Nebraska has allowed in a game since a 24-3 win over Michigan State on Oct. 29, 2011. The six points are also the fewest the Huskers have allowed on the road since a 21-3 win at Kansas State on Oct. 14, 2006.
***The Huskers have now allowed only six points – and no touchdowns – in their last six quarters on the road, dating back to the third quarter at Oregon. Devine Ozigbo scored on a 15-yard touchdown run in the second quarter for his first touchdown run of the 2017 season.
***Senior tight end Tyler Hoppes caught a six-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter for his first career touchdown reception.
***Punter Caleb Lightbourn punted just two times in tonight’s game, and did not punt in the first half. Lightbourn did not punt in last year’s game against Illinois.
***Redshirt freshman Ben Stille had his first three career tackles for loss in tonight’s game, including his first career sack in the third quarter. Stille’s three tackles for loss are the most by a Husker this season, bettering two by Khalil Davis against Northern Illinois.
***Senior Chris Weber recorded his first career interception on the final play of the first half, and he added his first career sack in the fourth quarter.
***Receiver Stanley Morgan Jr. had eight receptions for 96 yards and a 23-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. The eight receptions are a career high, eclipsing his previous high of seven at Oregon in the second game of the season. Morgan has caught at least five passes in each of the four games he has played in 2017 and has had at least 94 receiving yards in all four contests. Morgan increased his career receptions total to 84 to move up to 12th on the NU career receptions list, and pushed his career receiving yardage total to 1,152, moving him up seven spots to 16th on the Husker career chart.