Lincoln – Senior I-back Terrell Newby took over in the fourth quarter, carrying 16 times for 113 yards including a pair of touchdowns to give No. 15 Nebraska a 31-16 win over Illinois on Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium.
With the victory, Nebraska improved to 5-0 overall and 2-0 in the Big Ten. Illinois slipped to 1-3 overall and 0-1 in the conference.
A total of 90,374 fans were on hand for the 351st consecutive sellout at Memorial Stadium in Nebraska’s fourth home game of the 2016 season. The Husker faithful celebrated early when NU scored a touchdown on its opening drive of the game to take a 7-0 lead. Nebraska marched 75 yards in 13 plays in 6:30 capped by Tommy Armstrong Jr.’s one-yard plunge for his 20th career rushing touchdown.
From that point, Illinois won much of the next two quarters, taking a 16-10 lead on a Chase McLaughlin 33-yard field goal with 7:40 left in the third quarter. It was McLaughlin’s third straight field goal, and despite Nebraska maintaining possession for the rest of the third quarter, the Illini took a six-point lead into the fourth.
But the Big Red have owned the fourth quarter this season, and that trend continued with a 21-0 outburst against the Illini in the final period on Saturday. For the season, the Huskers have outscored their five opponents, 78-6.
Newby carried the load for the Huskers down the stretch. He rammed the ball into the teeth of the Fighting Illini defense on the last five plays of a monumental 18-play, 75-yard drive that consumed 10:42 that gave Nebraska a 17-16 lead with 11:58 left. He put the exclamation point on the defining drive with his powerful three-yard burst to paydirt.
While Newby took over on the offensive side, the Blackshirts shut the door on quarterback Wes Lunt and the Illini offense.
After Nebraska regained the lead, the Blackshirts forced a three-out, setting up an 11-play, 59-yard march that covered 5:49 and resulted in Armstrong’s six-yard scoring strike to senior tight end Trey Foster in the heart of the end zone. Newby touched the ball on nine of the first 10 plays on the drive to help give Nebraska 24-16 lead with 4:32 left.
The Blackshirts put the clamps down on the Illini with another three-and-out on the ensuing drive and forced the fourth punt of the game by Illinois. Two plays later, Newby brought the Sea of Red to its feet with his Nebraska season-long 63-yard touchdown run to seal the Huskers’ 31-16 win.
Newby finished the day with 27 carries for 140 yards, which both marked the second-highest totals of his Husker career. The 140 yards marked the third career 100-yard rushing day for the senior I-back from Los Angeles.
While Newby did most of the work on offense in the fourth quarter, Armstrong completed all three of his pass attempts and finished the day 16-of-23 for 220 yards and a touchdown through the air. He was intercepted late in the second quarter, marking just his second interception thrown in 129 attempts this season.
The Illini converted that turnover to points and tookk a 13-10 lead in the locker room at the half after trailing 10-7 with just over a minute left in the second quarter. McLaughlin kicked a pair of field goals for the Fighting Illini in the final 1:01 of the first half to give Illinois momentum.
The Huskers committed another turnover deep in Illinois territory early in the third quarter and the Illini converted it to points again to take a 16-10 lead before the late-game dominance by Nebraska.
After McLaughlin’s third field goal, Nebraska ran 33 plays for 203 yards over the game’s final 22:40, while Illinois ran just 10 plays for 18 yards.
For the game, Nebraska amassed 423 total yards on 72 plays while maintaining possession for a season-high 38:01. It marked the third straight game that the Huskers have totaled more than 35 minutes in time of possession. Nebraska, which rolled up 203 rushing yards, improved to 8-0 under Coach Mike Riley when amassing 200 or more yards on the ground.
Nebraska’s offensive line not only got a push up front in the second half for its runners, it also protected Armstrong against an Illini pass rush that entered the game leading the nation with 4.8 sacks per contest. Armstrong was not sacked in the game.
The Blackshirts held the Fighting Illini to just 270 total yards on 44 plays.
Nebraska will enjoy a bye next weekend while preparing for its second road test of the season at Indiana on Saturday, Oct. 15. Kick-off with the Hoosiers in Bloomington is set for 2:30 p.m. (CT) with television information to be announced at a later date.