Corn­huskers gra­ciously take what Illini give up

Post Tribune (Sunday) - - Sports - By Eric Ol­son As­so­ci­ated Press

LIN­COLN, Neb. — Ne­braska’s high­pow­ered of­fense made Illi­nois pay for its many mis­takes Satur­day.

The Corn­huskers con­verted four of the Illini’s five turnovers into 24 points while pulling away for a 54-35 win, their third in four games af­ter an 0-6 start.

“We got some good breaks (Satur­day). We were prob­a­bly due for some good breaks,” Ne­braska first-year coach Scott Frost said. “They made a cou­ple mis­takes and got us some good sit­u­a­tions. You can’t take ad­van­tage of those if you’re not do­ing the right thing.”

The Huskers (3-7, 2-5 Big Ten) did plenty right. Wear­ing al­ter­na­tive uni­forms to mark the 100th an­niver­sary of the end of World War I, the Huskers rolled up 606 to­tal yards on a raw af­ter­noon when the wind chill dipped to 13 de­grees. Illi­nois amassed 509 yards in the meet­ing of the Big Ten’s worst de­fenses.

“There early on in the game, watch­ing our of­fense ex­e­cut­ing, man, it’s fun call­ing plays; it was a thing of beauty,” Frost said. “Those guys were ex­e­cut­ing ev­ery­thing we were call­ing.”

Adrian Martinez threw for 290 yards and ac­counted for four touch­downs, and Devine Ozigbo ran for 162 yards and three scores.

Illi­nois (4-6, 2-5) had three turnovers in the first half — two muffed punts and a fum­ble by quar­ter­back AJ Bush. Those led to 17 points for Ne­braska, which led 38-21 at half.

Bush moved the Illini into Ne­braska ter­ri­tory on the open­ing se­ries of the sec­ond half but was in­ter­cepted when his pass went through Do­minic Stam­p­ley’s hands into safety Aaron Wil­liams. The Huskers em­barked on a 17-play, 82-yard drive that chewed nearly eight min­utes off the clock, with Ozigbo scor­ing his sec­ond touch­down for a 24-point lead.

“When you turn the ball over like that, it’s tough to win,” Illini coach Lovie Smith said. “When you con­tinue to give up big runs on the de­fen­sive side of the foot­ball, run and pass, it’s tough duty. When you have a cou­ple mishaps like we did in the spe­cial teams game against a team like this at home, it’s tough to win.”

Martinez was 24-of-34 pass­ing and threw for three touch­downs, and he ran 13 times for 55 yards and a touch­down. His 345 yards of to­tal of­fense pushed his sea­son to­tal to a school fresh­man-record 2,747.

Ozigbo broke a ca­reer-long 66-yard touch­down run in the sec­ond quar­ter and went 60 yards for an­other touch­down in the fourth.

Bush, play­ing against the school where he spent the first two years of his col­lege ca­reer, threw for 126 yards but was in­ter­cepted twice. Ne­braska couldn’t stop Bush as a run­ner, though. He rushed for a school quar­ter­back­record 187 yards and three touch­downs on 25 car­ries.

“It’s cool, but I didn’t get the most im­por­tant stat I wanted,” Bush said. “You ball out, but Le­Bron scores 60 and they lose. It’s like that.”

Ozigbo is 42 yards short of be­com­ing the Huskers’ first 1,000-yard rusher since 2014. Stan­ley Mor­gan Jr. caught eight passes for 131 yards and two touch­downs and moved to No. 2 on the school’s all-time re­ceiv­ing list be­hind Kenny Bell.

Illi­nois’ 383 rush­ing yards were its sec­ond-most this sea­son be­hind the 430 against Min­nesota. The Illini’s Reg­gie Corbin, who ran for a ca­reer­high 213 yards against Min­nesota, left with an in­jury in the sec­ond quar­ter.

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