LINCOLN, Neb. (WCIA) — Coming off the heels of their first win of the season, quarterback Brandon Peters returned from COVID-19 protocol and helped lead the Illini to a 41-23 win. It’s their first win at Nebraska since 1924.
Peters was sidelined for the last three weeks and Saturday was the first game he was eligible to return. He did not need long to shake off the rust, he found his favorite target Josh Imatorbhebhe early in the second quarter for his first touchdown of the season. He also got one on the ground later in the game.
“Our guys played well today, they deserve a win,” said head coach Lovie Smith. “We practiced that way all last week. When you can run the football like that, and when you can throw it the way Brandon and our receivers caught it, normally you know what the score will say at the end–big win for us.”
The rushing attack and defense were standouts again for Smith’s squad. Senior linebacker Jake Hansen recovered a fumble on the first play of the game that set up the offense with great field position, which allowed transfer running back Chase Brown to score the first rushing touchdown of his college career. He followed that up with another score in the first quarter, and ended the game with 110 yards on the ground.
Senior Mike Epstein also cracked 100 rushing yards on the day. He ended with 113 yards and a score. This is the first time since 2000 the Illini have had two 100-yard rushers in back-to-back games.
The defense had five takeaways in total. Hansen followed up his fumble recovery with an interception later in the game. Tony Adams and Tarique Barnes grabbed picks of their own, and Khalan Tolson was able to force and pick up another fumble.
“It’s huge momentum change, anytime the ball changes possessions like that that’s huge,” said Hansen. “So we’ll try to continue and do that propel our team going that way.”
Illinois will be back at Memorial Stadium next week when they welcome in No. 3 Ohio State. The Illini have not beaten the Buckeyes since 2007.