The opener for Nebraska and Illinois has already been billed as a must win for each team. The Illini don’t have many expected wins on their schedule and need to take advantage of every opportunity they have. Nebraska head coach Scott Frost cannot afford to lose any games that the Huskers are expected to win or his seat will continue to boil.
While Scott Frost was working to maintain his position, new Illini head coach Bret Bielema, was working toward building the “famILLy” that he is branding. This is also the first college football game since the Covid-19 outbreak that has allowed a full capacity crowd adding more intrigue to this game. Face masks were required for the indoor sections of Memorial Stadium, and recommended for the stands, though very few complied with the latter. The crowd reached about three quarters full, which was impressive for the immediate post lock down portion of this pandemic. The energy, however, was not lacking as Illini fans fervently cheered on their team and its new leader.
Nebraska surged to an early lead, but watched it evaporate as a much improved and more disciplined Illinois squad took charge. The 100 degree heat on the field didn’t slow any of the action as the Illini defense kept Husker QB Adrian Martinez mostly in check – even as Nebraska cut into the lead late in the game. Backup Illini QB, Artur Sitkowski took charge after Brandon Peters went down with an injury in the first quarter. Many were surprised that he performed better than Martinez today.
Illinois posted a 30-22 win as orange and blue flags proudly flew and “Oskee Wow Wow” reverberated throughout the stadium.
Scott Frost left the field donning a pensive expression, while Bret Bielema hugged his new AD in celebration. Asked after the game if he was overcome with emotion, he jokingly replied, “Was I fighting back tears? No, I was just sweating.” Perhaps a glistening future is in store for the Illini.