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Report card: Nebraska vs. Illinois
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Report card: Nebraska vs. Illinois

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RUNNING GAME (A)

What a day from Ameer Abdullah. His 43-yard TD run was his highlight, when he eluded one tackler that nearly tripped him, made a great cut inside to the middle of the field, and used sound blocking by Cethan Carter and Quincy Enunwa en route to the end zone. Also liked how he stayed in bounds in the fourth quarter to run clock. And Ron Brown said his favorite part was when Abdullah ran a crisp route on his 15-yard reception on a third-and-13 play in the first quarter.

PASSING GAME (B)

Tommy Armstrong sure looks poised and confident in the pocket, even though a couple of his throws were a bit high. Perhaps the wind played a factor. Kenny Bell bailed out Armstrong with his one-armed, highlight-reel catch on a high pass that looked destined to land in the arms of the Illinois safety. Touchdown-making Quincy Enunwa has six TDs through five games. The school record for a season is 11, held by Johnny Rodgers.

AGAINST THE RUN (D)

At times, it looks like Nebraska is just waiting to be blocked. For instance, I sometimes wonder what senior tackle Thad Randle is waiting for? More often than not, he’s the last man out of his stance and off the line. Illinois RB Josh Ferguson averaged 6 yards a carry, and Illinois, thanks to chunks of yardage from him, ran for 195 yards. That’s not exactly stopping the run, which is what Nebraska will need to do succeed in the Big Ten.

AGAINST THE PASS (B)

I was surprised there wasn't a flag for hitting too hard when Stanley Jean-Baptiste leveled an Illinois receiver to jar the ball loose on an incomplete fourth-down pass in the first quarter. Admit it. You held your breath for a second, didn't you? Good call by Bo Pelini to bring the house on third-and-goal, resulting in a sack, but why not on third-and-12 earlier in the drive? Nebraska got decent pressure on Nathan Scheelhaase and seemed to rattle him at times.

SPECIAL TEAMS (C)

It’s never fun for special-teams players – the guys kicking the football, or the guys catching it – on an especially windy day. But wind shouldn't play a factor in two missed PATs, one from Mauro Bondi, and one from Pat Smith. That’s three missed PATs this season, and Nebraska can ill afford such inexcusable hiccups. Bondi, though, showed a powerful leg on kickoffs into that stiff southwest wind.

PLAY-CALLING (C)

I think we can all agree that was bad play call on third-and-11 from your 3-yard line. First of all, don’t call a pitch play, and second of all, if you do, do it with Abdullah, not Imani Cross. The Huskers are lucky that safety didn't lead to more points. And after Illinois cut the deficit to 30-12 in the third quarter, why run out of bounds and throw two passes, both of which fell incomplete?

GAME MANAGEMENT (D)

Heaven forbid you play too much of Tommy Armstrong to the point it's obvious he should be playing, even when Taylor Martinez returns. I mean, that’s the only reason I can think of pulling Armstrong for senior Ron Kellogg. That’s not a knock against Kellogg, who’s proven he’s capable of running the offense. But now’s not the time to utilize a two-quarterback system. Also, too many substitution penalties, or timeouts to avoid them.

OVERALL (C)

If you simply look at the final score and see highlights of Abullah's runs and Bell’s catch, you think Nebraska must have righted the ship and dominated. When, in reality, it was kind of a clunky game against a less-than-mediocre opponent. Eight penalties. Three fumbles. Two missed PATs. The defense bent – a lot – but bowed and didn't break, which is an improvement. But I didn't see a team that looks capable of seizing control of a jumbled Legends Division. Oh, and like it or not, there will be a QB controversy when Martinez returns.

Reach Brian Rosenthal at 402-473-7436 or brosenthal@journalstar.com. You can follow him on Twitter @HuskerExtraBR.

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