Cornhuskers go wire-to-wire, stifle Illinois’ rush attack

Nebraska used its defense and special teams to beat Illinois 20-7 in a Big Ten Conference game Friday night in Champaign, Ill.

The Cornhuskers (3-3, 1-2 Big Ten) forced a fumble, intercepted a pass, made two fourth-down stops — including one on the goal line — recovered a muffed kickoff and blocked a punt to beat the Illini for the first time since 2019. They also held Illinois (2-4, 0-3) to 21 rushing yards, the Illini’s lowest total in nearly four years.

Nebraska led 17-7 at the half, then extended the lead to 20-7 on a 32-yard Tristan Alvano field goal midway through the third. The score was set up by a fumble forced by Phalen Sanford and recovered by Griffin Moore in Illinois territory.

A blocked punt on the ensuing drive set the Cornhuskers up with great field position, but Alvano’s 36-yard field-goal attempt was wide. Nebraska then turned it over on three consecutive drives in the fourth quarter to keep the margin from being greater.

After stuffing Illinois on fourth-and-goal at the 1 on the game’s opening possession, Nebraska drove 86 yards and went up 3-0 on a 31-yard Alvano field goal late in the first quarter.

Another long drive ended in a touchdown for the Cornhuskers midway through the second, with Anthony Grant scoring on a 1-yard run. Two plays later it was 17-0 Nebraska following a muffed kickoff into a stiff wind and a 25-yard Heinrich Haarberg TD run.

Haarberg finished with 236 yards of total offense, throwing for 154 and rushing for 82.

Illinois got on the board with 1:31 left in the first half on a 46-yard TD pass from Luke Altmyer to Pat Bryant. Altmyer was 29 of 47 for 289 yards, completing passes to nine different targets, but had no support from a run game averaging more than 140 yards entering the night. He was picked off once.

Nebraska is off until hosting Northwestern on Oct. 21, while Illinois visits Maryland on Oct. 14.

–Field Level Media