LINCOLN, Neb. — Nebraska’s fourth-quarter dominance showed up again Saturday. This time it was Terrell Newby leading the way.
The senior ran for 113 of his 140 yards and scored two touchdowns in the last 15 minutes, just in time for the 15th-ranked Cornhuskers to turn back Illinois’ upset bid and win 31-16.
Newby touched the ball on 18 of Nebraska’s last 21 plays from scrimmage and the Cornhuskers (5-0, 2-0 Big Ten) won going away after being down 16-10. They also avenged a 14-13 loss last year in Champaign.
“Newby, I thought, was a real man today,” Nebraska coach Mike Riley said.
Newby didn’t have much choice. Fellow running back Devine Ozigbo went out of the game late in the third quarter with an ankle injury, and backup Mikale Wilbon was banged up.
“I knew I had to kind of carry the load from then on,” Newby said. “I accepted it and wanted to do everything in my power to get the victory.”
Newby’s two TDs came as Nebraska scored 21 straight points to overcome a 16-10 deficit. The Huskers have outscored their five opponents 78-6 in the fourth quarter.
Illinois (1-3, 0-1) got off only 10 offensive plays after taking its six-point lead with 7:40 left in the third quarter. The Illini have lost 14 straight and 23 of 24 against Top 25 opponents.
“We got better today. We still have a loss but I think we made improvements,” Illinois coach Lovie Smith said. “We hung in there throughout, had a lead for most of the game, but it’s about finishing. We didn’t do that.”
Nebraska, favored by three touchdowns, turned over the ball on back-to-back possessions while falling behind. The Illini had to settle for field goals after each takeaway, allowing the Huskers to stay close.
The Huskers went 18 plays in 10:42 to take a one-point lead early in the fourth. Nebraska kept the drive alive because of two huge penalties on the Illini. Chunky Clements had Tommy Armstrong Jr. stopped for a loss on a third-and-12, but he was called for a horse-collar tackle, and Darius Mosley was flagged for pass interference on a fourth-and-4.
The biggest play, though, was when Newby picked up a first down by inches on a fourth-and-1 at the Illinois 4. The spot stood after a video review.
“It’s a game of inches,” Newby said. “I tried to do everything I could to stretch the ball out. I’m glad it went our way.”
Newby went into the end zone from the 3 on the next play, and he finished the scoring with a 63-yard burst.
Reggie Corbin led the Illini with 72 yards on nine carries, and Kendrick Foster scored their only touchdown on a 31-yard run. Wes Lunt was 13 for 22 for 133 yards.
“Definitely no moral victories,” Lunt said, “but we’re so close to breaking through. We’re leading all the way up to the fourth and battled through adversity all game. But at the end, they made a few plays and won the game.”
ILLINOIS: The Illini, who have lost three in a row since winning their opener, gave Nebraska all it could handle. The offense couldn’t get going again once the Huskers took the lead, and the defense was on the field way too long.
NEBRASKA: The Huskers should feel good about getting out of this one with a win considering all their injuries. Jordan Westerkamp was taken to a hospital to be evaluated after he appeared to take a knee to the back while getting tackled. Tight end Cethan Carter injured his elbow early in the game.
“Looking at our team and watching that thing take place, it appears to be a real good time for a bye week,” Riley said.
Nebraska has a chance to move up, but the Huskers aren’t ready to break into the top 10 for the first time since 2011.
“Well, did you all stay around for the fourth quarter? That didn’t look like much up until then.” — Riley.
ILLINOIS: The Illini return home to face Purdue, which they beat 48-14 last season.
NEBRASKA: The Huskers have an open date next week before visiting Indiana on Oct. 15. It will be the Huskers’ first game against Indiana since they became Big Ten members in 2011.