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Nebraska vs. Illinois, 9.21

Nebraska kicker Lane McCallum (left) and holder Isaac Armstrong react after a missed field goal late in Saturday's game against Illinois in Champaign, Ill.

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Nebraska had some injury questions immediately answered Saturday against Illinois.

But others popped up.

Running back Maurice Washington appeared to be dinged up in the first half, and went through concussion protocol, according to the Husker Radio Network.

Washington, who had 89 yards on 10 carries, was not on the sideline during the third quarter, and tweeted from the locker room, "The only thing that hurts is me not being able to cheer my teammates on."

Another Husker tailback, Dedrick Mills, was injured while trying to make a tackle after an NU turnover midway through the third quarter. He was tended to by trainers and went immediately to the team's medical tent. Mills came back in the game two Husker drives later.

After the game, Mills said his left shoulder was sore, but he was OK.

"We always pick each other up," Mills said. "Once (Maurice) got out, I went in the locker room at halftime, talked to him … I told him, 'I got him.'"

Junior wide receiver JD Spielman took a big shot on a pass attempt near midfield in the second quarter and was down on the turf for a few minutes. He did not play the remainder of the half. He returned in the second half, but took a big shot to the back on a 17-yard catch on NU's second drive of the third quarter.

Sophomore defensive back Cam Taylor-Britt and junior left tackle Brenden Jaimes returned after leaving last week's game against Northern Illinois. 

Taylor-Britt had a tackle on the opening kickoff and intercepted a pass in the second quarter.

Jaimes started and showed no effects after suffering an apparent leg injury against the Huskies.

Spielman streak: Spielman caught seven passes for 159 yards, marking his 25th straight game with at least two receptions.

Spielman is now sixth on NU's all-time career receptions list. He passed Terrence Nunn (136) and Marlon Lucky (135).

Spielman, an Eden Prairie, Minnesota, native, had catches of 41, 12, 26 and 16 yards in the opening half.

Special-team challenges: Sophomore kicker Barret Pickering missed his fourth straight game, and his absence factored into NU's game plan.

The Huskers drove to the Illinois 28-yard line on their first offensive series, but an illegal-formation penalty and a 5-yard loss on a Mills run backed them up. Two plays later, NU faced fourth-and-11 and instead of attempting a 46-yard field goal, NU coach Scott Frost kept the offense on the field.

Adrian Martinez could only muster a 5-yard run on the fourth-down play.

NU turned to sophomore Lane McCallum on extra-point attempts. His third-quarter PAT was blocked by Illinois' Calvin Avery, preserving the Illini's eight-point lead at 35-27.

NU's kickoff coverage unit also did not have a good night. William Przystup, who handles kickoffs, did not kick the ball into the end zone on his first six tries, and Illinois' Dre Brown had five returns for 179 yards, including a long of 58.

Brown also had a head's-up play on a Przystup kick that curled towed the sideline. The ball landed at the 2. Instead of picking it up and running, Brown put his feet out of bounds and then fell on the ball (by rule, a kickoff out of bounds) and Illinois got the ball at the 35.

The Huskers also missed a field-goal attempt late that would have given them a seven-point lead.

Calls not in NU's favor: Nebraska turned the ball over four times, and one of those fumbles came following an official review.

Adrian Martinez, on NU's fourth drive of the second half, had a ball come out of his throwing hand and originally ruled an incomplete pass. After review, the officials reversed the call, saying Martinez had lost control of the ball before going into his throwing motion.

A similar scenario happened on Illinois' final drive. Nebraska recovered the ball and it was originally called a fumble. But the officials reversed the call after review.

"(We) told the defense to stay ready and told the offense to get ready to kneel on it," Frost said. "Sooner or later some of these breaks and calls are going to go our way, but they don’t seem to have gone our way for a long time based on stats, figures and statistics and calls and tonight, That’s all I’m going to say so I don’t get in any trouble."

Taylor-Britt’s toughness: Taylor-Britt was laid out on the turf and in clear pain a week ago.

Saturday night, he played and played well.

Taylor-Britt missed an early tackle on Reggie Corbin’s 66-yard touchdown run on the second snap of the game, but finished with three tackles, provided NU’s lone turnover with an interception and applied the coverage on Illinois’ last-gasp fourth-and-10 incompletion in the waning moments.

“Cam’s tough. Cam’s a great player and a warrior,” Frost said. “We had a few guys nicked up that went out there and fought for their teammates and it was great to see.”

The long way around it: Nebraska did not help itself in terms of field position. Five drives started within NU's 15.

A second-quarter drive that started at the NU 2 led to a Mills fumble on the first play of the drive.

Quick hits: It came the hard way, but Nebraska reached 900 all-time wins, joining Michigan, Ohio State, Alabama and Texas. ... Frost teams are 20-0 when scoring 35 or more points. ... Nebraska had 14 plays of 20 yards or more and 24 plays of 15 yards or more against Illinois.

Contact the writer at pgabriel@journalstar.com or 402-473-7439. On Twitter @HuskerExtraPG.

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Sports writer

Parker joined the Journal Star as the University of Nebraska football beat writer in August 2017. He previously covered Montana State athletics for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle and graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 2012.

Husker basketball reporter

A Ravenna native, Chris covers the University of Nebraska men's basketball team and assists with football coverage. He spent nearly 10 years covering sports at the Kearney Hub and nearly four years at the Springfield News-Leader in Springfield, Mo.

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