The Cornhusker Recap, Week 5: Fourth-Quarter Illini Fly-By

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After a home game with the magnitude of Oregon, maybe it’s only natural to have a little bit of a letdown. And I don’t just mean for the players on the field — it can apply to those of us sitting in the stands as well.

There are often games that don’t carry the urgency of what we’d consider a “big” game. Even when the Huskers find themselves in a little bit of trouble, I don’t find myself worrying a lot. Trailing Oregon 20-7 has a much different feel than trailing Illinois 16-10.

Sometimes those games get away from Nebraska and the crowd doesn’t really know what hit it (think 2011 Northwestern, or 2014 Minnesota); other times the Huskers figure it out (2012 Penn State, or 2014 McNeese State).

Nebraska’s 31-16 win over the Illinois Fighting Illini certainly fits the latter category. Behind 16-10 to start the fourth quarter, however, it was far from certain which way the contest would turn. Nebraska’s lackadaisical offensive output, coupled with injuries, had the home team looking at 4-1 and a second straight loss to Illinois.

Turns out we needn’t have worried. Something has gotten into this team in the fourth quarter, transforming it into an unstoppable juggernaut. One huge part of the late-game heroics was simply not giving Illinois the time to mount a challenge. Nebraska’s time-of-possession advantage was 38:01-21:59 for the game, including holding the ball for a staggering 11:04 in the fourth quarter. 15 minutes of game time turned into 21 points one way, and none the other way.

Terrell Newby led the charge, with 113 of his 140 yards and both of his touchdowns coming in the final quarter. Trey Foster’s first catch of the season resulted in the go-ahead touchdown a few minutes into the quarter.

Looking ahead, the Huskers get a much more timely bye week than last season’s week-twelve off day. Injuries to Jordan Westerkamp, Alonzo Moore, Devine Ozigbo, Cethan Carter and a large chunk of the offensive line are certainly limiting what the team would like to do offensively.

The Huskers have sat at 5-0 in a number of recent seasons (2014, 2010, 2003), but 6-0 has proven elusive. Hopefully a week of rest will give the team the boost it needs for the stretch run.

As it stands, Nebraska has already matched its 2015 regular-season win total. Can’t be mad about that.

On with the Recap.

Opponent Round-Up:

Previous Opponents: 9-15

Fresno State (1-4): 45-20 loss to UNLV.
Wyoming (3-2): 38-17 win at Colorado State.
#22 Oregon (2-3): 51-33 loss at Washington State.
@ Northwestern (2-3): 38-31 win at Iowa.
Illinois (1-3): Phew.

Future Opponents: 23-7

10/8 Bye Week
10/15 @ Indiana (3-1): 24-21 win over Michigan State. (2:30 PM, TV: ABC)
10/22 Purdue (2-2): 50-7 loss at Maryland. (Time & TV TBA)
10/29 @ #11 Wisconsin (4-1): 14-7 loss at Michigan. (6:00 PM, TV: ABC/ESPN/2)
11/5 @ #2 Ohio State (4-0): 58-0 win over Rutgers. (7:00 PM, TV: ABC/ESPN/2)
11/12 Minnesota (3-1): 29-26 loss at Penn State. (6:30 PM, TV: BTN)
11/19 Maryland (4-0): 50-7 win over Purdue (Time & TV TBA)
11/25 @ Iowa (3-2): 38-31 loss to Northwestern. (Time & TV TBA)

C’mon, Oregon. Can’t one of our “marquee” opponents have a good season when we’re able to beat them? … But hey, that Northwestern win looks better after they went to Iowa City and took down Iowa. … Minnesota lost in overtime at Penn State. Looks like their 258-pound kicker is someone you don’t want to mess with. … They haven’t exactly played a tough schedule, but Maryland looks like a team that could get dangerous.

The Tommy-to-Taylor Ladder:

Tommy Armstrong continues to put distance between himself and his eventual successor in terms of passing yards. 220 against the Illini brought him to 1,151 on the season and 7,842 for his career.

1. Tommy Armstrong Jr. (7,842)
2. Taylor Martinez (7,258)
3. Zac Taylor (5,850)
4. Joe Ganz (5,125)
5. Dave Humm (5,035)
6. Jerry Tagge (4,704)
7. Eric Crouch (4,481)
8. Tommie Frazier (3,521)
9. Turner Gill (3,317)
10. Vince Ferragamo (3,224)

The Wester-Ladder:

At this point, I hope I have more to add to this section in the coming weeks. After a six-yard completion in the third quarter, Westerkamp immediately called for trainers as he grabbed his back and writhed in pain on the turf. Let’s hope he can make a speedy recovery over the bye week in time to suit up against Indiana. (Naturally, as I get ready to post this, word comes out that Westerkamp is unlikely to play against Indiana.)

1. Kenny Bell (2,689)
2. Johnny Rodgers (2,479)
3. Nate Swift (2,476)
4. Jordan Westerkamp (2,098)
5. Terrence Nunn (1,762)
6. Todd Peterson (1,602)
7. Niles Paul (1,532)
8. Quincy Enunwa (1,526)
9. Matt Davison (1,456)
10. Maurice Purify (1,444)

Even in a shortened appearance his 65 yards on four catches were enough to lead the team in receiving. His streak of consecutive games with a catch reached 31.

Odds & N’s:

My wife and I swapped tickets to help some couples sit closer to each other, giving up our section 19 seats for a pair in the top section of east stadium. Despite being higher than the press box and scoreboard, the view was pretty spectacular. It was fun to see plays develop from a different angle. Basically, it was like watching a Husker game from God’s vantage point.

And speaking of heavenly, the amount of room those seats allowed our rear ends was incredible! Ditto for the leg room. I mean, we could have thrown up a tailgate tent, grill, and satellite dish and still had room enough to kick up our feet. If you aren’t afraid of the 4,813 escalators it takes to get up there, I’d highly recommend taking in a game up there.

Oh, and the Wi-Fi was excellent. Perfect for snaps and tweets. Imagine trying to decipher those sentences back in 1996.

All right, I understand the officials have a lot going on and it can’t be easy to focus. But is it too much to ask the referee to turn off his microphone before blowing his whistle? It happened not once, not twice — but three times! At least he didn’t utter anything profane, like NFL referee Pete Morelli.

Attendance on Saturday was 90,374, putting it only 40 behind the Oregon game. That … surprises me.

Nebraska’s go-ahead drive took up 10 minutes and 42 seconds. That … amazes me.

Another perk of the top of east stadium? Beach balls! Haven’t been around those at a game before. Cue up some chants of “west stadium sucks!” and it’ll be like an all-red College World Series.

During a break in the action, a promo to guarantee 2017 season tickets for a deposit of $100 played on the scoreboard. Call me crazy, but with the glut of late-summer season-ticket availability, this seems like a ploy to squeeze a hundred more bucks out of some suckers.

This week’s Name That Tune songs: Dr. Dre’s “Keep Their Heads Ringin'” and Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline.” Props for the variety.

Sam McKewon examines the power and leadership Terrell Newby showed in the fourth quarter. His Monday Rewind looks at the wide variety of issues and distractions the Huskers have had to overcome to reach 5-0.

Dirk Chatelain writes that — corny as it sounds — this Husker team embraces each other like a family.

Lee Barfknecht says Wisconsin is still the class of the Big Ten West, even after a defeat at Michigan.

Tony Boone looks at Stanley Morgan’s emergence as a clutch receiving threat — one that will be important with injuries to Carter, Moore, and Westerkamp.

Tom Shatel took in Milt Tenopir’s funeral and a Husker game on Saturday. He writes that Tenopir’s fingerprints were all over Nebraska’s rushing surge to close the game. And he had quite the group of pallbearers, his “boys,” to see him off.

Opponent Preview:

Coming out of the bye week, Nebraska will face the Indiana Hoosiers, one of two Big Ten teams the Huskers have yet to face in their time in the conference (Maryland being the other).

Quarterback Richard Lagow has tossed nine touchdowns and 1,278 yards, but also six interceptions, which should provide the Blackshirts some turnover opportunities. Running back Devine Redding will spearhead the Hoosiers’ rushing attack, while three different wideouts have at least 16 catches and 200+ receiving yards.

However, the Hoosiers don’t have the benefit of an off week. They get the unenviable task of traveling to Columbus to take on Ohio State, which most recently dismantled Rutgers 58-0. One of the biggest advantages for the Huskers could simply be the weariness of the Hoosiers after taking on the Buckeyes.

Thanks for reading! See you back here next week.

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