CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) -- Scoring summary:
8:57, Q1: T. Lee pass,to D. Pierson-El for 45 yds for a TD. 7-0 Nebraska.
14:57, Q2: C. McLaughlin 25 yd FG GOOD. 7-3 Nebraska.
10:38. Q2: D. Ozigbo run for 15 yds for a TD. 14-3 Nebraska.
1:23, Q2: T. Lee pass,to T. Hoppes for 6 yds for a TD. 21-3 Nebraska.
7:49, Q3: C. McLaughlin 25 yd FG GOOD. 21-6 Nebraska.
13:34, Q4: T. Lee pass,to S. Morgan Jr. for 23 yds for a TD. 28-6 Nebraska.
Quarterback Tanner Lee threw for 246 yards and three touchdowns, helping lead Nebraska to a 28-6 win over Illinois on Friday night.
The Cornhuskers (3-2, 2-0 Big Ten) led wire to wire, scoring on their first possession, a quick 88-yard drive capped by a 45-yard touchdown pass from Lee to De'Mornay Pierson-El, and was never under pressure.
Pierson-El finished the night with four receptions for 94 yards and one score. Stanley Morgan Jr. also had a big night with a career-high eight receptions for 96 yards and a score.
A week after struggling to put away Rutgers, Nebraska's offense had its way against a young Illini defense. In addition to Lee's performance, running back Devine Ozigbo had 106 yards on 18 carries.
Illinois (2-2, 0-1) continued to struggle behind run-first quarterback Chayce Crouch. He made several plays with his legs, including an impressive 19-yard tackle-breaking scamper just before the half, but he threw for only 99 yards. Crouch has yet to eclipse 150 passing yards this season.
The Illini struggles showed after they kicked a field goal to cut the deficit to 21-6 midway through the third quarter. Patrick Nelson forced an Ozigo fumble that was recovered by Stanley Green on the Nebraska 28. But three plays lost 14 yards in three plays and they punted.
The Illini have now lost 15 of their last 17 games following a bye week.
Nebraska: After an upset loss to Northern Illinois and athletic director Shawn Eichorst getting fired, the Cornhuskers appear to have found some stability. Nebraska has picked up two conference wins and gained momentum heading into next week's home matchup with No. 10 Wisconsin. With a good outing against the Badgers, head coach Mike Riley could show that the program hasn't taken a step back from its 9-4 season a year ago.
Illinois: The Illini are ranked last in the Big Ten in total offense and against the Cornhuskers it was clear why. Crouch threw inaccurate passes throughout the game, and showed limited ability to get the ball down field. A week after playing backup quarterback Jeff George Jr. in the second half against South Florida, Smith let Crouch play out the game. But heading into next week, he may reevaluate who starts under center.
Nebraska: The Cornhuskers are back at home to face No. 10 Wisconsin, 3-0, next Saturday.
Illinois: The Illini play at Iowa next Saturday.
2 –– Nebraska won its second straight Big Ten game to open conference play, marking the second straight year NU has started league play 2-0. The Huskers improved to 3-4 in Big Ten road openers, including wins each of the past two seasons. NU also improved to 11-3-1 all-time Illinois, including 4-1 with both schools as members of the Big Ten Conference. The Huskers are now 3-2-1 all-time against the Illini in Champaign.
3 –– Nebraska scored touchdowns on all three of its drives in the first half of tonight’s game, a first for the Huskers in the Big Ten era (since 2011). The last time Nebraska scored touchdowns on its first three drives of the game was in a 38-9 victory over Arkansas State on Sept. 12, 2009.
85 –– Nebraska had three touchdown drives of at least 85 yards in tonight’s game—an 88-yard touchdown drive on its first possession of the game, an 89-yard scoring drive in the second quarter, and a 93-yard drive spanning the third and fourth quarters. Nebraska now has six drives this season of at least 85 yards.
10 –– Quarterback Tanner Lee completed 10 consecutive passes spanning from his final throw of the first quarter to his first pass of the third quarter. Lee was 9-of-9 for 110 yards and a touchdown in the second quarter alone. Lee finished the game 17-of-24 for 246 yards and three touchdowns, posting the best quarterback rating of his collegiate career (198.2) and his second-highest completion percentage and his top mark at Nebraska. Lee also matched his Nebraska career high with three touchdown passes in the game.
45 –– Senior De’Mornay Pierson-El caught a 45-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter, marking the second-longest reception of his career. Pierson-El had a 46-yard catch at Northwestern in 2014. Pierson-El’s touchdown was his fourth touchdown reception of the season and his 10th career receiving touchdown. Pierson-El finished the game with 94 receiving yards, pushing his career total to 990 yards, leaving him 10 yards shy of 1,000 career receiving yards.
300 –– Nebraska limited Illinois to 199 total yards, marking the third straight game the Huskers have held the opponent to fewer than 250 yards. This marks the first time the Blackshirts have limited three straight opponents to less than 250 yards since a three-game stretch to open the 2003 season against Oklahoma State, Utah State and Penn State. Nebraska has held its past two opponents under 200 yards while recording the top two total defense efforts under Riley in the past two weeks. The Huskers have posted three of the top four efforts under Riley in the past three weeks.
10 –– Nebraska recorded seasons highs in both tackles for loss (10) and sacks (5.0) in tonight’s game.
6 –– Nebraska held Illinois to just six points in the win. The six points are the fewest allowed in Mike Riley’s three seasons and mark the fewest points Nebraska has allowed in a game since a 24-3 win over Michigan State on Oct. 29, 2011. The six points are also the fewest the Huskers have allowed on the road since a 21-3 win at Kansas State on Oct. 14, 2006. The Huskers have now allowed only six points – and no touchdowns – in their last six quarters on the road, dating back to the third quarter at Oregon.
· Devine Ozigbo scored on a 15-yard touchdown run in the second quarter for his first touchdown run of the 2017 season.
· Senior tight end Tyler Hoppes caught a six-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter for his first career touchdown reception.
· Punter Caleb Lightbourn punted just two times in tonight’s game, and did not punt in the first half. Lightbourn did not punt in last year’s game against Illinois.
· Redshirt freshman Ben Stille had his first three career tackles for loss in tonight’s game, including his first career sack in the third quarter. Stille’s three tackles for loss are the most by a Husker this season, bettering two by Khalil Davis against Northern Illinois.
· Senior Chris Weber recorded his first career interception on the final play of the first half, and he added his first career sack in the fourth quarter.
· Receiver Stanley Morgan Jr. had eight receptions for 96 yards and a 23-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. The eight receptions are a career high, eclipsing his previous high of seven at Oregon in the second game of the season. Morgan has caught at least five passes in each of the four games he has played in 2017 and has had at least 94 receiving yards in all four contests. Morgan increased his career receptions total to 84 to move up to 12th on the NU career receptions list, and pushed his career receiving yardage total to 1,152, moving him up seven spots to 16th on the Husker career chart.