CHAMPAIGN, Ill.— Tanner Lee completed 17 of 24 pass attempts for 246 yards and three touchdowns as Nebraska cruised to a 28-6 win over Illinois in the first-ever Friday night conference matchup in the 121-year history of the Big Ten.
The Cornhuskers (3-2, 2-0 Big Ten) led 21-3 at halftime after playing perhaps their best half of the season, opening with three consecutive touchdown drives of 88, 75 and 89 yards, respectively.
Lee, who entered the game with seven touchdowns and nine interceptions, looked poised and confident in his first turnover-free performance since Nebraska’s 43-36 win against Arkansas State Sept. 2.
Stanley Morgan Jr. caught eight passes for 96 yards and a touchdown after sitting out of the Cornhuskers’ 27-17 win over Rutgers on Saturday with a soft tissue injury in his neck.
De’Mornay Pierson-El added four catches for 94 yards, including a 45-yard grab that capped the first of the Cornhuskers’ three consecutive touchdown drives to open the game.
The Illini (2-2, 0-1) were rather one-dimensional offensively, rushing 37 times for 93 yards while attempting just 16 passes. Chayce Couch completed nine of 15 pass attempts for 99 yards, but was more effective with his legs, with an impressive 20-yard carry that extended a drive on a blown up play.
Freshman running back Mike Epstein led the Illini ground attack with 10 carries for 42 yards.
Illinois managed two red-zone field goals—one in each half—but both came at the end of seemingly promising drives. Sacks and penalties stalled the Illini offense all evening, as they surrendered five sacks for 32 yards and were flagged five times for 49 yards.
Nebraska controlled the tempo in the second half and won the time of possession battle, holding the ball for 31:08 to Illinois’ 28:52.
The Cornhuskers more than doubled the offensive output of the Illini, amassing 411 yards to Illinois’ 199. It’s the 15th consecutive game Nebraska has won when outrushing its opponent.