With the kickoff temperature at its lowest for a home game since 1993, the Huskers put their third win of 2018 on ice with contributions from all three phases of the game, winning 54-35 on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
Devine Ozigbo led the way on the ground with the longest two rushes of his career. He scored touchdowns of 66 and 60 yards, piling up 162 yards rushing on just 11 carries. “I didn’t know he was that fast,” joked Jerald Foster, who helped pave the way for 606 yards of offense, 316 rushing. “My man was coming around the side just burning.”
In the air, fellow senior Stanley Morgan shined on touchdown receptions of 37 and 32 yards. Morgan ended up with 131 receiving yards on 8 receptions, and now finds himself second all-time in Nebraska career receptions, yards, and touchdowns with two games left to play.
Not to be outdone, the Blackshirts had a big play day of their own. NU picked off Illinois QB and former Nebraska teammate AJ Bush twice and recovered a fumble forced by Tre Neal. Though the Illini had 292 total yards at halftime, they didn’t run a single play in NU territory until the 9:06 mark of the 4th quarter, and that only due to an Andrew Bunch fumble. “I thought we tackled a lot better in the second half,” linebacker Luke Gifford said of the improvement. Gifford also credited Bush with making it tough on the defense in the first half. “He’s just a really good athlete, that big and agile. There’s not a lot of guys that are like him.”
Special Teams? Yes, they showed up as well. After the teams traded TDs on the first five possessions of the contest, the punt coverage team jumped on back-to-back muffed punts in the 2nd quarter, one each for Chase Urbach and Jeremiah Stovall. Both recoveries turned into touchdowns by the offense. If that wasn’t enough, Marquel Dismuke blocked a punt through the back of the end zone for a safety in the 4th quarter. “About time,” Frost said of the performance by special teams. “I thought the guys were assignment-sound today and opportunistic. They gave us a couple gifts, but our guys were there to take advantage of them.”
The Husker offense set a school record in achieving 450 offensive yards for the seventh consecutive game. They also scored 30 points for the fifth straight game and fourth straight in a conference game, a first since 2001. Frost sees the team playing more consistently. “They’re starting to care about the little things and see how the little things lead to the big things. Until we got some of those things right we weren’t going to put ourselves in positions to win games.”
Mohamed Barry led NU with 11 total tackles, marking the sixth double-figure tackle game this season for the junior linebacker and the first such season since Will Compton in 2012. Safeties Tre Neal and Deontai Willams forced three total fumbles, and fellow safety Aaron Williams had an interception. The other INT came from defensive tackle Mick Stoltenberg, the first of his career. He also had one of the three NU sacks.
Nebraska will take on Michigan State next Saturday in Lincoln, game time TBD.