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NCAA Football Simulation Week 5: Illinois @ #21 Nebraska

As Big Ten play opens this week for both teams, how did the Illini fare virtually against the powerhouse that is Nebraska Football?

Who's got that guy?
Who's got that guy?
Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

As a fan of the Illini for many many years, we all know that our team is capable of winning games that they have no business winning (see Ohio State '07 or the '99 road wins).  In fact, we've heard a lot this season about how the last two coaches have won an "upset" game in their 3rd season.  Since Coach Beckman is in his 3rd season as head coach, there's always a little thought in the back of our minds hoping that, "maybe this one is our big win!"

With that in mind, let's see if NCAA '14 gave us any chance...

1st Half

This one started off with fireworks early.  After a 22 yard field goal from Taylor Zalewski, the Illini offense would stall for a good majority of the quarter.  This opened up the Nebraska run game as Ameer Abdullah found the endzone in the first two series--the Huskers would open an early 14-3 lead.  Wes Lunt would stand tall though, and an 8 yard TD pass to Malik Turner brought the Illini to within 4.

In the second quarter, Lunt would continue to lead the offensive attack into the red zone. Eventually, two early stalled drives resulted in 23 and 27 yard field goals from Zalewski only gave the Illini a 16-14 lead.  Enter Abdullah again, as he would scamper into the endzone for a third time (this time from 4 yards out) and the Huskers regained the lead 21-16.  Josh Ferguson would then become a factor as he carried the ball 4 yards for an Illinois touchdown with only 2:35 remaining in the quarter to put the Illini ahead 23-21. Late in the quarter, Abdullah would take a 50 yard run to the house and the Huskers took the lead (and momentum) into the locker room at halftime.

ILLINI ~ 23  Nebraska ~ 28

2nd Half

Then, it got ugly.

First, an opening Husker field goal from 43 yards.  Next, Tommy Armstrong Jr. would find Kenny Bell for a 5 yard touchdown pass.  After that, Ameer Abdullah would find the endzone from 2 yards out (go figure) and just like that, it was a 44-23 lead for Nebraska (the Huskers went for 2 on the Armstorng TD, and missed.  There was much rejoicing).  Lunt and the offense would manage to put one in the endzone with a Jon Davis catch and run of 14 yards, but Nebraska would add one last touchdown midway through the 4th quarter (take one good guess as to who scored.  I'll give you a hint, his name is Ameer) ending any hope of an Illini comeback.

All in all, the Illini would end with 582 total yards of offense.  Lunt threw 35-77 (45%) with 2 TDs and an interception.  The Illini rushing attack of Josh Ferguson and Donovonn Young combined for 161 yards on 40 carries (Ferguson scored once).  Our defense gave up 667 total yards of offense with 285 in the air and an eye opening 382 on the ground (not all rushing yards were Abdullah--he only ran the ball 40 times for 297 yards and 5 touchdowns).

Final Score: ILLINI ~ 30  Nebraska Cornhuskers ~ 51