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NCAA Football '14 Simulation: Illinois Fighting Illini vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers

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We used the popular EA Sports video game to simulate the results of Saturday's Illini game. Can the Illini earn their first Big Ten victory of the season, and their first win over the Huskers since 1924?

Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

With the help of some passionate college football fans in the world of the internet, TCR will be simulating every Illinois football game this season using EA Sports' NCAA Football '14. We've downloaded updated rosters and the team depth charts will be changed on a week-by-week basis to reflect what we'll see on the field. We'll also check the weather forecast to mirror the expected conditions at kickoff.

Last season, our simulations predicted the correct outcome 70% of the time.

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Week 3: Illinois Fighting Illini (3-1) @ Nebraska Cornhuskers (2-2)

Not since the days of Coach Robert Zuppke have the Fighting Illini knocked off Nebraska...and that was back in 1924.  This year, the story is a bit different as both Illinois and Nebraska have new coaches at the helm of their teams.  Through the non-conference schedule, Nebraska has faced 2 tough losses to the BYU Cougars and the Miami-Florida Hurricanes (BYU on a Hail Mary, and Miami in OT).  Illinois has only had one blunder, a 48-14 beatdown by the North Carolina Tar Heels.  With both teams needed a win this week to start their conference schedules off strong, who would come away with a victory?

First, let's see how both teams are rated:

Illinois Fighting Illini

  • Overall: 79
  • Offense: 83
  • Defense: 78
Nebraska Cornhuskers
  • Overall: 84
  • Offense: 88
  • Defense: 80

Simulation:


This game started slow for both teams, as the Huskers and the Illini would fumble the ball a combined 4 times in the first quarter.  Illinois was the only team to capitalize off those turnovers though, as Wes Lunt would find the endzone on a 1 yard sneak to give the Illini a 7-0 lead at the end of the quarter.

Nebraska would not sit quietly however, as Tommy Armstrong Jr. and Jordan Westerkamp would play pitch and catch to set up a 21 yard touchdown catch from Brandon Reilly.  Terrell Newby joined the action, as he ran for 134 yards for the game and would find the endzone twice (once in the first half, and again in the second).  Drew Brown and Taylor Zalewski traded field goals midway through the 2nd quarter (Drew from 27 yards and Taylor from 49 yards), and Westerkamp would haul in a 16 yard touchdown pass to give the Huskers a 24-10 lead at halftime.

Coming out of halftime, Josh Ferguson took control of the game with a touchdown reception inside of a yard to pull the Illini within one possession.  Tommy Armstrong led Nebraska back down the field, but Taylor Barton would intercept a pass to stall the drive.  Ferguson then picked up where he left off, and found the endzone from 1 yard out to tie the game.  Before the 3rd quarter ended, Terrell Newby would rush for his second touchdown of the game and give the Huskers a 31-24 lead heading into the 4th quarter.

With the injury bug hitting the Illinois tight end position, Ainslie Johnson was lined up at the fullback position.  His presence was vital as he would carry the ball 4 times this game, and a 2 yard touchdown run would tie the game at 31-31.  Drew Brown would tack on 3 points from 50 yards out for Nebraska after a Ferguson fumble, but Illinois would answer right back with a Ke'Shawn Vaughn touchdown from inside the 1 yard line.  Nebraska would try to answer yet again, but Armstrong's pass was intercepted by T.J. Neal and the Illini were back in business.  5 plays later, Vaughn scored again (this time, from 2 yards out).  Even though the Huskers would score late in the 4th quarter (Westerkamp...again), it was too little too late.

Final Score: Illinois 44, Nebraska 41

Here is the scoring summary and team stats for the game: