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Illinois fends off Nebraska in 30-22 season-opening win

Beneath a brand new coach, with followers packed into the stands for the primary time since 2019 and its backup quarterback on the helm, Illinois beat Nebraska 30-22 on Saturday to kick off the 2021 faculty soccer season.

The Large Ten convention win didn’t come with no value for the Illini.

Illinois beginning quarterback Brandon Peters left the sport holding his left (non-throwing) shoulder after being sacked arduous close to the tip of the primary quarter. He was 3-of-Four passing for 35 yards. He didn’t return and was changed by Artur Sitkowski, a sophomore switch from Rutgers.


Peters’ standing wasn’t clear following Saturday’s recreation.

“No damage updates but,” first-year Illinois coach Bret Bielema mentioned. “However as you might see, it was Brandon’s non-throwing arm, so there’s that.”

Sitkowski engineered a number of lengthy scoring drives utilizing a balanced assault underneath Bielema’s new system, which he labored to perfection throughout a profitable tenure at Wisconsin.

Sitkowski was 12 of 15 passing for 124 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.


“I can’t say sufficient about Artwork,” Bielema mentioned of his backup quarterback. “You already know, from day one he simply projected a severe, very direct form of persona. He walks like a quarterback and he talks like a quarterback. After I see our gamers rallying round a quarterback like that, properly, you’ve obtained one thing.”


The Illini speeding assault was led by Mike Epstein, who rushed for 75 yards on 16 carries, together with a 45-yard run within the first quarter.

Huskers quarterback Adrian Martinez was spectacular, racking up 232 passing yards on 16 completions. He had one passing landing and one speeding landing. Martinez was Nebraska’s main rusher, with 111 yards on 17 carries and one landing.

Gabe Ervin Jr. carried the ball 12 instances for 19 yards and Markese Stepp had three carries for 10 yards and a landing for the Huskers.

Illinois scored on a defensive gem late within the first half when Keith Randolph Jr. sacked Martinez and knocked the ball free close to midfield. Calvin Hart Jr. scooped it up and scampered 41 yards for an Illini landing with lower than a minute within the half.

Hart Jr. was injured late within the recreation and was helped off the sector with what gave the impression to be a left leg damage.

Illinois led 16-9 on the break and took a 23-9 lead halfway by the third quarter on a 2-yard landing cross from Sitkowski to tight finish Luke Ford.


Nebraska coach Scott Frost was being crucified on social media by livid Huskers followers earlier than the tip of the primary quarter. Frost is beginning his fourth 12 months with this system presently underneath NCAA investigation. The college introduced Aug. 18 the NCAA is trying into the soccer program amid allegations Cornhuskers workers improperly used analysts and consultants with Frost’s data and even moved exercises off campus final 12 months when such actions have been banned throughout the pandemic.

Frost is now a dismal 12-21 throughout his tenure at Nebraska.

“It’s like the identical previous film’” Frost mentioned after the sport. “However we’ll get a lot better. In my coronary heart, I imagine we will have a particular season.”

It’s possible his job will depend upon it.


Illinois punter Blake Hayes clearly would have been the participant of the sport had anybody within the stands had a vote. He could have garnered votes from each teaching staffs, as properly.

The Australian punter averaged 45.Three yards per punt, pinning Nebraska deep a number of instances together with one which led to an Illini security to start the sport.

“Blake, I imply, wow,” Bielema mentioned. “Superb. His very presence is a recreation changer.”


The early adjustments Bielema has delivered to the Illinois program paid off handsomely in a key early convention win. Regardless of shedding its beginning quarterback, the offense regarded easy all afternoon and the protection held when it wanted to. This was a win in additional methods than simply on the scoreboard for Bielema and his teaching workers.

Martinez performed exceptionally properly, and supplied almost the entire Huskers’ brilliant spots on offense. With Frost on the new seat already, Saturday may show a expensive loss.


Nebraska hosts Fordham on Saturday; Illinois hosts UTSA on Saturday.


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