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Seeing Red: Luke Mullin's extra points from Nebraska's 26-9 loss to Illinois

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Amie Just and Luke Mullin breaks down Nebraska's loss to Illinois on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022, at Memorial Stadium.

Nebraska football writer Luke Mullin offers his extra points from the Husker football team's 26-9 loss to Illinois on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

It was over when: Casey Thompson didn't come out of the halftime locker room healthy enough to play. Nebraska had driven into Illinois territory on three of its first four drives of the game with Thompson — and only made it there once without him thanks to an Illinois fumble. Backup quarterbacks Logan Smothers and Chubba Purdy both failed to test the Illinois defense.

Turning point: When Rahmir Johnson couldn't haul in a second-quarter pass on a wheel route. The pass from Thompson didn't quite hit Johnson in stride, so the blame is to be shared. But, a completed pass would have set up Nebraska near midfield. Instead, the Huskers went all the way to third down, the play where Thompson suffered an injury.

Quotable: Interim head coach Mickey Joseph on the game-changing play.

“To give the kid credit, the kid caught the ball all week. We repped that play 10-12 times and he did not drop one, and he dropped today, but I am not going to say one play lost the game for that kid because we need that kid to play for us.”

Game ball: Illinois quarterback Tommy DeVito. Already an efficient passer who completes around 70% of his throws, DeVito didn't miss many against Nebraska. In fact, he only missed two. DeVito went 20-of-22 passing for 179 yards and two touchdowns, and he made plays when he needed to. Combined with a strong running game, that level of efficient passing is nearly impossible to defend.

Nebraska interim head coach Mickey Joseph speaks after the Illinois game, Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022, at Memorial Stadium.

Game ball: Illinois running back Chase Brown and defensive back Sydney Brown. The brothers impacted the game in a big way on both sides of the ball, starting with Chase Brown's 149-yard rushing performance. On defense, Sydney Brown intercepted a pair of passes and led Illinois with a team-high six tackles.

Hat tip: To linebacker Luke Reimer and safety Marques Buford, who both returned from injury this week. Reimer recorded a team-high nine tackles and Buford wasn't far behind with seven of his own. Both also contributed to tackles for a loss.

Deep connection: Thompson connected with tight end Travis Vokolek in the second quarter for a 56-yard catch-and-run touchdown that will make the end-of-season highlight package. Vokolek shook off a pair of defenders before taking a short pass all the way for a long touchdown, his second in three weeks. After catching seven passes for 76 yards in his first three games of the season, Vokolek has hauled in 10 passes for 140 yards over the last three weeks.

Numbers for the road

7.6: Yards per play for Nebraska's offense in the first half.

1.5: Yards per play for Nebraska's offense in the second half.

8: Nebraska recorded eight tackles for a loss against Illinois, the most the Huskers have had in a game all season. Nebraska recorded seven TFLs against Rutgers earlier this season.

16.7%: Nebraska converted 16.7% (2-for-12) of its third downs against Illinois. Heading into the game, NU had converted 45.4% of its third downs this season.

9: First downs gained by Nebraska.

18: First downs gained by Illinois.

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Husker football/baseball reporter

An Omaha native and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate, Luke reports on Nebraska football and baseball. Luke is in his fourth year with the Journal Star and previously covered prep sports.

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