Things went from bad to worse for Lee three plays into the second half, as he threw his third pick-six in the last two games, his FBS-worst ninth interception overall, and Rutgers was up 17-14. Healthy for the first time that season, he "lugged a wet pigskin" 26 times for 95 yards and two touchdowns, including a 48-yard run. Stanley Morgan Jr. has 18 catches for 299 yards and three scores, but he missed last week's game with a neck injury.
Morgan finished the night as the Huskers leading receiver, going for 96 yards on eight catches.
Less than a week after he was noticeably booed by Nebraska fans in a win over Rutgers, and almost two weeks after those same fans booed him during a loss to Northern Illinois, the junior vaporized an Illinois defense that had two weeks to prepare for him. That didn't really happen. IL had 1st-and-goal at the three, but the Blackshirts stiffened and held the Illini to a field goal. The victory propelled Minnesota (5-1, 3-0 Big Ten) into a first-place tie with Purdue and IN in the conference standings. Assistant coach Kayla Banwarth told the players after the match that as a team they rated a 3.0 in passing on a four-point scale, which is "unheard of".
A targeting call saved Nebraska's first drive of the night. Minnesota committed a hitting error on the next rally and needed a timeout as the Huskers went up by seven.
Lee led the Huskers on a eight-play drive that was capped by a 45-yard touchdown pass to De'Mornay Pierson-El, his fourth TD of the season.
Junior running back Mikale Wilbon got the start in place of the injured Tre Bryant.
Hunter, who added 11 digs for a double-double, put Nebraska's middle blockers in great positions all night. Neither did a targeting penalty early in the game that resulted in the ejection of Illinois' freshman safety, Bennett Williams.
On the Nebraska drive, quarterback Tanner Lee was 3-for-3 with a touchdown pass to JD Spielman.
IL grounded-and-pounded all the way down to the 3-yard line, passing the ball just once.
The Illini struggles showed after they kicked a field goal to cut the deficit to 21-6 midway through the third quarter.
The balanced attack was a product of the good work the Huskers did passing Minnesota's serves. After only rushing for a combined 98 yards against the Huskies, the duo has ran for 345 yards the last two games.
At one point in the opening half, Lee, he of a wince-worthy 52.1 percent completion rate, had connected on 10 consecutive passes. 11 of his 18 carries came on the final drive where he racked up over half his yards on the night as NU chewed up almost 7 minutes of clock. Nebraska was a flawless 2-for-2 in the opening half on third downs, by the way. Senior tight end Tyler Hoppes came wide-open for his first career touchdown. On that drive, Nebraska had four plays of 10 yards or more, including a 24-yard pass from Lee to Pierson-El.
It didn't go as smoothly to open the second half. The biggest play of the drive came on 2nd-and-goal when redshirt freshman Ben Stille pulled down quarterback Chayce Crouch for a five-yard loss. The Huskers were about to punt the ball to IL after a third down incompletion. On third-and-12, sophomore Carlos Davis sacked Crouch to end the Illini threat. But the team lost 14 yards in three plays and was forced to punt. That put the lead just out of range for the Illini, who couldn't find any rhythm on offense. Mike Riley, hired by Eichorst, saw his Nebraska record slip to 16-13, not almost good enough to satisfy proud Nebraska fans who still remember winning three national championships in the 1990s.