Give Nebraska credit. The Huskers have found a way to make every game interesting this season.
A Hail Mary.
An overtime loss to Miami.
Southern Miss’ near comeback.
Somehow the Huskers did again on Saturday, losing to Illinois 14-13 in a heartbreaking fashion.
Up 13-6 with under a minute left on the clock, Nebraska had a 3rd down and seven. Illinois had no timeouts and a run play would have ticked the clock down to around 10 seconds left in the game.
Offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf called a bootleg run, with no option to pass.
Junior quarterback Tommy Armstrong did the unthinkable. He improvised. He passed.
True freshman running back Devine Ozigbo bobbled the short pass from his quarterback near the line of scrimmage, bringing up fourth down and seven with :55 seconds left on the clock.
It was all Illinois needed.
After Nebraska failed to convert on their fourth down conversion, the Illini marched 72 yards in six plays, ticking just 42 seconds off the clock. Illinois quarterback Wes Lunt found wide receiver Geronimo Allison on a one-yard touchdown pass, putting the Illini up 14-13.
"Obviously today was a tough loss," said first-year Nebraska head coach Mike Riley. "We take our hats off to Illinois for fighting to the end. It has come down to the wire in the last three games of our five games this season, so at some point we are going to have to find the answer.
"This one was definitely interesting. I'm going to say what I have said before. This loss was similar to other losses that we have had this year, and I've given them the same speech. Each time the reaction is the same and then we go out and have a good week of practice. We just have to finish the job."
Riley was asked how many more times can his players weather the story.
“I hope we don’t have to weather anymore,” said Riley. “Three out of the first five down to the last couple plays. It’s rough.
A game featuring gusty winds, Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong hit on only 10 of his 31 attempts, throwing an interception. Meanwhile the Nebraska running game, which ran 34 times, was getting 5.5 yards per carry.
"I thought earlier in the game our throwing was going good," said Riley. "The first prass of the game was a good throw. Ultimately we were trying to make plays, and we were do so, for a while."
A bright spot for Nebraska was the play of linebacker Chris Weber, filling in for Josh Banderas (groin). The walk-on recorded a team-high 17-tckles, including four for loss. It was the second straight week Weber hit double-figures.
Nebraska fell to 9-3-1 all-time against Illinois, including a 2-2-1 mark at Illinois.