Illinois beat Nebraska 30-22 Saturday to open the faculty soccer season in a recreation that had slightly little bit of the whole lot you’d anticipate from a season opener. The Illini rode a gradual efficiency from the offense and a wave of Nebraska errors to provide Bret Bielema a win in his first recreation as Illinois’ coach.
Issues seemed bleak for the Illini early when beginning quarterback Brandon Peters went out with an harm to his left shoulder and was changed by Rutgers switch Artur Sitkowski, however Sitkowski carried out effectively in Peters’ absence, finishing 12 of his 15 cross makes an attempt for 124 yards and two touchdowns.
After all, whereas it is a wonderful begin for Illinois, many of the focus shall be on Nebraska and its coach Scott Frost. Frost entered the season on a seat that is thought of heat, and it will not quiet down following one other sloppy efficiency from the Cornhuskers. The primary factors of the sport got here on a security that ought to by no means have occurred.
The Cornhuskers would get better to take a 9-2 lead, however the Illini would reply with two touchdowns, together with a 41-yard fumble return for a landing within the remaining minute of the primary half, and by no means seemed again.
The Illini scored on their opening possession of the second half, and despite the fact that Nebraska mounted a comeback try, they fell quick in the long run.
Let’s talk about the largest takeaways from this efficiency from each groups.
1. Nebraska is a poorly-coached soccer staff. The Cornhuskers have loads of issues, and that is why Scott Frost is now 12-21 since taking up this system, together with a 9-18 mark in convention play. And whereas not all of these issues may be pinned on Frost, it is changing into unattainable to disregard the consistency of errors Frost’s soccer staff makes weekly.
The sport began with a Nebraska punt returner fielding a punt working backward inside his 10-yard line, leading to a security. Simply earlier than halftime, quarterback Adrian Martinez fumbled, and Illinois scored off it to take a lead it by no means relinquished. Even within the second half, when Nebraska was mounting a comeback, the errors continued.
At one level, trailing 30-16 within the fourth quarter, the Cornhuskers have been driving into the purple zone when a snap sailed over Martinez’s head, leading to a 16-yard loss. Martinez would use his legs on the following play to make up for all of the misplaced yardage, however there have been nonetheless issues.
The staff was down two scores within the remaining minutes, but there was no urgency to the offense, because the clock saved ticking, losing useful time earlier than Nebraska reached the tip zone to chop the result in eight. After which Nebraska would miss the additional level — its second miss of the sport.
It needed to really feel like deja vu for Nebraska followers watching a staff make a mistake at seemingly the worst attainable time time and again. You possibly can blame it on this being the primary recreation of the season, however when it has been taking place constantly over the past three seasons, I am undecided anyone is prepared to purchase the excuse.
2. The Cornhuskers have a extreme lack of playmakers on offense. Martinez takes plenty of warmth, and deservedly so. He is too free with the soccer — his fumble immediately was the twenty sixth of his profession — and he tends to overlook wide-open receivers. He completed finishing solely 16 of his 32 passes for 232 yards, however he additionally offered practically each massive play the Huskers had.
The issue Martinez and Nebraska have is that no one else on the offense who appears able to making a giant play. Nebraska noticed playmakers like Wan’Dale Robinson and different receivers switch out of this system over the offseason, and it is left them with a receiver corps that seemed incapable of discovering separation in opposition to the Illini protection. Illinois went to man protection typically Saturday, daring Nebraska receivers to beat it, they usually hardly ever did. Except Illinois blew a protection — and it blew just a few — Nebraska receivers had a tough time getting open.
It would not matter who your QB is. If receivers don’t get open, and he would not have a dependable run recreation to assist — Nebraska working backs averaged solely 2.3 yards per carry — you are going to have issue transferring the ball constantly.
3. Artwork Sitkowski is a hero. Sitkowski transferred to Illinois from Rutgers over the offseason, and to that time, in his profession, he’d solely been recognized for an extreme quantity of turnover. In 18 profession video games at Rutgers, Sitkowski threw 20 interceptions, together with 18 in 11 video games as a starter in 2018. Saturday’s efficiency was probably the very best of his collegiate profession.
When Sitkowski got here in to exchange Brandon Peters, he handed the ball off to a working again on his first eight snaps and was intercepted on his first cross, however a Nebraska penalty — one other a type of errors — negated it. Sitkowski then settled in and took what the Nebraska protection gave him earlier than establishing a landing with a ravishing strike down the sideline to Deuce Spann.
It is unclear how lengthy Brandon Peters shall be out following his shoulder harm, however given how Sitkowski performed Saturday, there is no assure the job shall be his when he will get again.
https://www.cbssports.com/college-football/news/nebraska-vs-illinois-score-takeaways-bret-bielema-wins-in-illini-debut-pressure-rises-on-scott-frost/ | Nebraska vs. Illinois rating, takeaways: Bret Bielema wins in Illini debut, strain rises on Scott Frost