CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — Quarterback Tanner Lee threw for 246 yards and three touchdowns, helping lead Nebraska to a 28-6 win over Illinois on Friday night.
The Cornhuskers (3-2, 2-0 Big Ten) led wire to wire, scoring on their first possession, a quick 88-yard drive capped by a 45-yard touchdown pass from Lee to De’Mornay Pierson-El, and was never under pressure.
Pierson-El finished the night with four receptions for 94 yards and one score. Stanley Morgan Jr. also had a big night with a career-high eight receptions for 96 yards and a score.
A week after struggling to put away Rutgers, Nebraska’s offense had its way against a young Illini defense. In addition to Lee’s performance, running back Devine Ozigbo had 106 yards on 18 carries.
Illinois (2-2, 0-1) continued to struggle behind run-first quarterback Chayce Crouch. He made several plays with his legs, including an impressive 19-yard tackle-breaking scamper just before the half, but he threw for only 99 yards. Crouch has yet to eclipse 150 passing yards this season.
The Illini struggles showed after they kicked a field goal to cut the deficit to 21-6 midway through the third quarter. Patrick Nelson forced an Ozigo fumble that was recovered by Stanley Green on the Nebraska 28. But three plays lost 14 yards in three plays and they punted.
The Illini have now lost 15 of their last 17 games following a bye week.
Nebraska: After an upset loss to Northern Illinois and athletic director Shawn Eichorst getting fired, the Cornhuskers appear to have found some stability. Nebraska has picked up two conference wins and gained momentum heading into next week’s home matchup with No. 10 Wisconsin. With a good outing against the Badgers, head coach Mike Riley could show that the program hasn’t taken a step back from its 9-4 season a year ago.
Illinois: The Illini are ranked last in the Big Ten in total offense and against the Cornhuskers it was clear why. Crouch threw inaccurate passes throughout the game, and showed limited ability to get the ball down field. A week after playing backup quarterback Jeff George Jr. in the second half against South Florida, Smith let Crouch play out the game. But heading into next week, he may reevaluate who starts under center.
Nebraska: The Cornhuskers are back at home to face No. 10 Wisconsin, 3-0, next Saturday.
Illinois: The Illini play at Iowa next Saturday.
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