Those Were The Days - Nebraska

Aug 27, 2021

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Craig Has The Scout has been published for nine years now. Friday night Stream Of Consciousness posts have been happening since September of 2010. Signing Day Summary since 2009. But Those Were The Days predates them all.

Detlef was writing Those Were The Days back before I was with IlliniBoard. The IB is 21 years old but I've only been part of the last nine years. Well, I mean, I was on IlliniBoard all the time those first 10 years. I just wasn't writing. From the independent days to the days to the back-to-independent days and then the IlliniHQ days, Brumby was running the site. And Detlef was writing Those Were The Days. And I was posting depth charts on the football board.

So once again, the tradition returns. Detlef writes a TWTD, I proofread it and add an intro because giving him his own byline is scary. Even after all these years.

Nebraska is always a challenge for him because there have been so few games. I believe he's already written about every Illini win. The only one left to choose: last year.

Here's Detlef:

It is the beginning of the Bret Bielema Era in Champaign! Not only is it Bret's first game, it's a home game against a Big Ten opponent! BEAT NEBRASKA. I do not know if the Bielema Era will succeed. I do know that he definitely has a plan to succeed. Whether it happens remains to be seen. It is refreshing to see some sort of "plan" other than what we've seen from Illinois football coaches for far too long. Anyhow, today's tale recalls a historic win for our lads in that "other" Memorial Stadium for the first time since 1924! THOSE WERE THE DAYS!

November 21, 2020: There almost wasn't a season due to COVID. But somehow the Big Ten finally arranged for football after howls of protests, many from Nebraska. Illinois, like many teams, had players out due to positive tests or contact tracing. This greatly affected Illinois at quarterback where Brandon Peters had missed three straight games. Illinois entered the game at 1-3 after a stirring comeback win at Rutgers led by quarterback Isaiah Williams. Peters started in Lincoln. Nebraska wore its Blackshirt jerseys to honor its defensive tradition. Would that be the case this day? (I sure hope not when the teams meet this year!)

On its opening drive, Nebraska quarterback Luke McCaffrey scrambled from his own 15 yard-line and threw what appeared to my fading eyes as a forward pass. However, the officials ruled correctly that it was a lateral, recovered by Jake Hansen. Peters scrambled on the first play from scrimmage, fumbled, and Illinois recovered at the Nebraska four-yard line. As Robert says, "Turnover Fairy!" Chase Brown then ran four yards and Illinois led 7-0. Nebraska responded with a nice drive capped by a McCaffrey short touchdown run.

Illinois also responded with a nine play, 75 yard drive: Chase Brown ran thirty three yards to the Nebraska two-yard line. He then scored again from two yards out. Illinois led 14-7. On fourth and four from the Illinois 43 yard-line, Nebraska went for it. However, the shotgun snap sailed over McCaffrey's head. He recovered but then threw an interception to Tarique Barnes and Illinois took over at its 35 yard-line.

With 13:49 left in the second quarter, Illinois faced a third down and six from the Nebraska 29-yard line. Peters got great protection from the offensive line and threw a perfect pass to the corner for the end zone for Josh Imatorhbhebhe. Illinois led 21-7. Nebraska responded with a field goal to make it 21-10. Mike Epstein busted a long run to the Nebraska 23 yard-line. Again Peters threw to BheBhe who was tackled at the one-yard line. Epstein scored from there and Illinois led 28-10.

With thirty seconds left in the half, Nebraska had the ball at its own 47 yard-line, facing a second down and 19 to go. McCaffrey scrambled and saw an open man. However, he didn't see Tony Adams III who intercepted the pass and returned it to midfield. Peters had enough time to hit Donny Navarro down to the 25 yard line but Illinois did not score. A 28-10 halftime lead in Nebraska? Boggle!

Illinois got the football to start the third quarter but three plays gained two yards. Illinois punter Blake Hayes prepared to punt from the Illinois 31-yard line. As he received the snap, he stepped to his right. He then saw that all of the Nebraska punt team had turned its backs to cover the punt. Hayes took a few steps to his right, stopped, then immediately ran left! As he ran, he hesitated with no one around him! He kept running to the Illinois 45-yard line for a first down! It was the best/worst fake punt in college football history! It's worth watching again on YouTube!

From there, Illinois kept the football. James McCourt nailed a 24-yard field goal to make the score 31-10 with 8:24 left in the third quarter. The Illinois drive consisted of 16 plays and 6:31 of game clock! However, Nebraska quickly scored a touchdown to make the score 31-17 with 6:48 left in the third quarter. Illinois was in danger of letting a big lead slip away. However, at the Illinois 35-yard line, Peters rolled right and found an open Daniel Barker who rumbled to the Nebraska 37-yard line. Illinois methodically moved the ball until Peters got a "Bush Push" to score from one yard out for a 38-17 lead. The drive went 75 yards in 10 plays.

Nebraska now needed to score just to keep up with Illinois. On fourth down from its own 35-yard line, Nebraska ran the football and fumbled at its own 43-yard line. Illinois recovered, took advantage and drove for another field goal and a 41-17 lead. On fourth down and 18 from the Illinois 34-yard line, McCaffrey threw to the end zone. Jake Hansen intercepted and Illinois smelled victory. Nebraska changed quarterbacks and scored a late touchdown for the final score of 41-23.

Lovie Smith always preached about the importance of turnovers. For this game, he was right. Nebraska committed five turnovers. Illinois had zero so yes, Illinois should have expected to win. Illinois had 490 yards of offense. Peters threw for 205 yards. Incredibly, Illinois had two running backs go over 100 yards: Chase Brown with 110 and Mike Epstein with 103. This led to Illinois winning the time of possession with over 36 minutes. Tony Adams finished with 13 tackles and Khalan Tolson had ten.

Sources: YouTube,


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