CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Not sure where the Big Ten win will come from now.
Missed opportunity after missed opportunity was the theme for Illinois Friday night at Memorial Stadium against fellow Big Ten West foe Nebraska.
You’d think after getting embarrassed against your former defensive coordinator last week and the program’s best defensive player of all-time dying that the team would want to respond nicely, right? Well, guess not.
In what could have (and frankly should have) been a get-right kind of win — and a game where Illinois (2-4, 0-3 Big Ten) even won the turnover battle — Nebraska was who left victorious by a score of 20-7.
“Extremely frustrating,” said head coach Bret Bielema postgame. “To be a 2-4 football team is absolutely a very painful thing.”
HOW IT HAPPENED
Same Illinois, same story.
Another great first offensive drive didn’t end up in a touchdown — in fact it ended up in zero points after a first and goal from the Nebraska two-yard-line.
“We’ve got to convert points, bottom line,” Bielema said. “We can’t win any games . . . without scoring points.”
The Huskers (3-3, 1-2 Big Ten), after starting a few inches from their own endzone, went on an 11-play drive that would end with a field goal.
Scoring would stall until midway through the second quarter when a team would find the endzone for the first time in the game. That team being Nebraska.
With a then 10-0 Husker lead, this happened.
A KICK INTO THE WIND FALLS SHORT AND THE HUSKERS GET IT pic.twitter.com/gdGXDvNiXf— Sickos Committee (@SickosCommittee) October 7, 2023
Next thing you know, Illinois found itself down 17-0 on the very next play as Nebraska QB Heinrich Haarberg ran it in from 25 yards out.
Illinois would get on the board for the first time before half though, as QB Luke Altmyer found receiver Pat Bryant for a 46-yard touchdown. It would then get the ball back relatively quickly after, but would find no points as Caleb Griffin missed a 55-yard field goal with time expiring in the first half.
Just like last week, it felt like there was life at this point. But also just like last week, the second half was rather lackluster.
The only score in the third quarter would be a Nebraska field goal. And remember that special teams play from above? Something else happened that set Nebraska up in plus-territory.
IT’S BLOCKED BY NEBRASKA WITH HIS LEG?? pic.twitter.com/lj6BLA00vg— Sickos Committee (@SickosCommittee) October 7, 2023
Did the Huskers take advantage after? No. Did it matter? Also no.
Neither side would score the rest of the way, with Illinois being unable to capitalize on three late Nebraska turnovers.
“I thought our guys prepared for the moment and obviously didn’t get the right result,” Bielema said. “I know it’s extremely frustrating for everybody.”
This game was a total mess, and it might officially be time to push the panic button.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Plenty of Dick Butkus honors Friday night, one day after he died at 80 years old.
The number 50 on both sides of the field is outlined in orange in honor of the late Dick Butkus.— Adam Rosen (@arrosen76) October 6, 2023
Nice tribute from the #Illini. There will be more tributes as well during and prior to the game. Coaching staff and players for the Illini are wearing Butkus shirts/stickers. pic.twitter.com/y4v2DXtGTd
TWEET OF THE GAME
Just a couple small things to clean up.
Illinois heads to College Park to play currently undefeated Maryland next Saturday. The 5-0 Terrapins play No. 4 Ohio State on Saturday.
Kickoff will be at 2:30 p.m. Oct. 14 and will air on NBC (NOT Peacock!).