Welcome to the TCR GameThread! The Fighting Illini will travel to Lincoln on Saturday to face the No. 15 Nebraska Cornhuskers, and Steve Bourbon (@steve_bourbon) will be covering the action for us. Make sure to refresh this page throughout the game for updates and analysis on the Orange and Blue.
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We'll have a recap up shortly after the game concludes; all post-game discussion should take place there. Go Illini!
This is the first game of the rest of the season with revised expectations in place. Perhaps in August, an orange and blue-clad fan might talk themselves into the Illini keeping it close with the Cornhuskers and another Mike Riley time mismanagement gives Illinois a chance at the upset. That hypothetical seems more like a fantasy with each passing week, and Illinois enters this game as a three touchdown underdog coming off its bye week. I want to see any sort of response from this team. The Illini were steamrolled by Western Michigan on both sides of the ball, so will the Illini roll over and get trounced again or stand up and right the ship with a competitive performance? I think it's too much to look for a win today -- it's not too much to ask to see improvement in all three phases. Believe me, there's plenty of room to grow.
11:57 1st Quarter: Pat Nelson gets his first start of his career, and Julian Jones makes the start at linebacker. Nebraska methodically moving the ball, just past midfield.
8:23 1st Quarter: Tommy Armstrong Jr caps off a drive that spans nearly half of the quarter with a 1-yard touchdown run. Illinois couldn't get a stop to slow down the Huskers on their 12-play drive.
Nebraska 7, Illinois 0
5:32 1st Quarter: Illinois is forced to punt after Lunt is sacked on third down near midfield. Interesting development so far is that Reggie Corbin was the starting running back, and Kendrick Foster has seen time, but Ke'Shawn Vaughn has yet to be seen on offense. Worth monitoring going forward.
Some terrible tackling angles so far by #illini. Screen for Newby across midfield.— Jeremy Werner (@JWernerScout) October 1, 2016
End of 1st Quarter: Nebraska 7, Illinois 0
14:48 2nd Quarter: A couple of penalties wipe out a pair of big plays for Nebraska, and the Cornhuskers are forced to try a 56-yard field goal, which ends up being short. Illinois will have good field position to get the ball back. Pat Nelson has been really active for Illinois. Six tackles already.
And with Megginson out at tackle for Schmidt & Lee at guard, this is next year's offensive line + Spencer. We're already watching next year.— Robert (@ALionEye) October 1, 2016
10:11 2nd Quarter: TOUCHDOWN! Foster takes a handoff off guard and bursts upfield for a 31-yard score. Foster and Corbin have been the feature backs today, and both have shown some zip in being able to make defenders miss. Tie game!
Kendrick Foster Touchdown pic.twitter.com/lYG5Dpn0jQ— IllinoisLoyalty (@IllinoisLoyalty) October 1, 2016
Nebraska 7, Illinois 7
5:59 2nd Quarter: Nebraska is held to a field goal after a nice pass breakup by Dunlap. A more important development is that Nebraska WR Jordan Westerkamp left the game with a right ankle injury. Trainers were working on him on the sidelines after he was pulled down from behind by Nelson.
Nebraska 10, Illinois 7
2:23 2nd Quarter: Chayce Crouch enters for Illinois. Runs a read option, short pass, delay of game. Lunt back in.
1:01 2nd Quarter: Good drive by the Illini to tie the game up. A little puzzling to see Crouch in the game for a few plays -- including a pass -- and Garrick McGee also dialed up a halfback pass with Nate Echard (although he pulled the ball down and didn't throw it). We've got a game.
Nebraska 10, Illinois 10
0:16 2nd Quarter: Signs of life from the Illinois defense. After allowing a 28-yard completion, Darius Mosely picks off Armstrong and the Illini are across midfield! A long scramble from Lunt moves the Illini close to field goal range.
0:00 2nd Quarter: A field goal as the first half clock runs out give Illinois its first lead. An 'ILL-INI' chant in Lincoln is loud enough to be heard on TV.
HALFTIME: Illinois 13, Nebraska 10
Halftime stats.— Illini Stats & Notes (@IlliniStats) October 1, 2016
Illinois 13, Nebraska 10 pic.twitter.com/WF1fcmUypG
Halftime analysis: Is this the same team we saw get stomped two weeks ago in Champaign? The Illini look...good so far. The offense has been able to achieve the balance that McGee and Co. have craved, and it's been the two-headed monster of Reggie Corbin and Kendrick Foster running the ball who have had success. The Illini defense has bent quite a bit -- Nebraska has 223 yards -- but they've kept the Huskers off the board for the most part. The key to the second half is not wearing down defensively like we saw against North Carolina, and continuing to run the ball effectively on offense with Corbin and Foster. A score right out of halftime could really put the pressure on Nebraska.
14:57 3rd Quarter: TV report indicates that Westerkamp will return for the second half. Illini starts with the ball.
13:58 3rd Quarter: Not a good start for the Illini. Bad kick return and a personal foul on DJ Taylor back up the Illini inside their own 10, and Nebraska returns a punt inside the Illinois 30-yard line.
11:25 3rd Quarter: LovieBall! Illini force a fumble on a big hit from Tre Watson, and Rob Bain recovers. Nebraska thwarted in the red zone, and Illinois has another chance to extend its lead.
Chase McLaughlin makes a 33-yard field goal. He's 3-for-3 today and 5-for-5 this season.— Illini Stats & Notes (@IlliniStats) October 1, 2016
Illinois 16, Nebraska 10 - 3rd quarter
7:44 3rd Quarter: Illinois 16, Nebraska 10
3:13 3rd Quarter: Just a killer penalty by Chunky Clements. Had Armstrong for a huge loss on third down, but brought him down by the horsecollar, and now Nebraska is inside Illinois' 30-yard line. Can't be giving away extra opportunities like that.
1:03 3rd Quarter: Another penalty extends a Nebraska drive. Mosely breaks up a pass on fourth down, only to be called for pass interference. Looked clean in real time, but officials threw the flag anyway.
End of 3rd Quarter: Illinois 16, Nebraska 10
Patrick Nelson up to 14 tackles, the most by an Illini this season.— Illini Stats & Notes (@IlliniStats) October 1, 2016
13:38 4th Quarter: Carroll Phillips is down for the Illini. Nebraska players were immediately signaling for trainers to come onto the field. Not good.
12:23 4th Quarter: Nebraska goes for it on 4th and 1 from the Illinois 3-yard line and Julian Jones blows it up, just an instant too late. After a measurement, Nebraska gets a first down by the nose of the football. Drive is up to 18 plays and counting.
11:58 4th Quarter: After a long review, the play stands. Newby takes it in for a touchdown to give Nebraska the lead. 18 plays over 10 minutes and 42 seconds. Brutal drive for the Illinois defense.
Nebraska 17, Illinois 16
10:21 4th Quarter: Dangerous time for Illinois. A very, very quick three-and-out, and the Illini defense is back on the field already. Have to dig deep and somehow get a stop.
4:32 4th Quarter: On the 11th play of this drive, Armstrong finds his tight end in the end zone for a touchdown. The Illini defense looked completely gassed for most of that drive, particularly the defensive line.
Nebraska 24, Illinois 16
FINAL: Nebraska 31, Illinois 16