CHAMPAIGN — Adrian Martinez passed for 327 yards and three touchdowns to lead Nebraska over Illinois 42-38 Saturday night in the Big Ten Conference opener for both teams.
The Cornhuskers (3-1, 1-0) put up 690 yards of total offense compared to 299 by Illinois (2-2, 0-1).
Martinez also rushed 18 times for 188 yards. Wan’Dale Robinson carried the ball 19 times for 89 yards and a touchdown. Dedrick Mills rushed 12 times for 62 yards and a touchdown.
Brandon Peters was 9 of 22 for 78 yards passing with a touchdown and one interception for Illinois. Reggie Corbin carried the ball 20 times for 134 yards and a touchdown. Ra’Von Bonner and Peters also had rushing touchdowns for the Illini.
Illinois took advantage of several Nebraska miscues early and led 21-14 at the half. Perhaps the biggest Cornhusker mistake was a fumble by Mills early in the second quarter at the Illinois 2-yard line after being pinned there by a 53-yard punt by the Illini’s Blake Hayes.
Corbin carried the ball in on the next play, giving Illinois a 21-7 lead at that point. Corbin carried the ball ten times for 91 yards in the first half.
But Nebraska tied the game at 35-35 on the first series of the fourth quarter on Mills’ touchdown run and a two-point conversion run by Martinez.
It was an entertaining game that either team could have won. But Nebraska was able to overcome numerous mistakes to take control in the fourth quarter.
Nebraska: Hosts Ohio State next Saturday.
Illinois: Travels to Minnesota on Oct 5.