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Game Center | No. 17 Illinois 6, Nebraska 3; 01:49 1 quarter left | Sport

Continue to follow Scott Ritchie’s at-bats the rest of the day from Memorial Stadium:


Here are a few things I’ll be looking for today in Lincoln, Nebraska:

– Since kickers are the only players at the moment, let’s start with that. Caleb Griffin is healthy again after a leg injury cost him games at Iowa and Minnesota. Fabrizio Pinton made all seven of his field goals in those games, while Griffin was 7-of-11 on the season before the injury.

So will Griffin get his seat back? He’s out there now, just hitting 50-yarders. Or will Pinton retain the goal kicking duties? He became more efficient. We’ll find out as soon as Illinois kicks a field goal, because it’s obviously going to happen.

The only job Griffin hasn’t lost 100 percent of is his kickoff duties, as neither Pinton nor Will McManus can handle regular touchbacks. Kicks from the 10 yard line are not perfect.

– Of course, I’ll keep an eye on the running backs as well, Chase Brown will have his ninth straight 100-yard game and Josh McCray will likely be available. One interesting note, ie. returning depth, is that Jordan Anderson made the trip in place of fellow freshman Aidan Lageri.

One more note about Brown. He has yet to have a monster 200-yard game this season after two in 2021. Facing the worst defense in the Big Ten could create that opportunity.

– Nebraska quarterback Casey Thompson has been sacked 19 times this season. Illinois State’s defense, at least after the Indiana game, has managed to regularly put opposing quarterbacks on their backs. The Cornhuskers offense has a real Virginia vibe (ie, they like to make big passing plays). If you remember, Brennan Armstrong had a good portion of this game in his life (if he wasn’t getting hit).


A more informal warm-up before the actual pre-game warm-up takes place at Tom Osborne Field. Illinois running back Josh McCray exited early and didn’t appear to wear the right knee brace he wore during the Minnesota game, where he dressed but didn’t play.

McCray’s return to the lineup won’t change the fact that Chase Brown is atop Illinois’ non-existent depth chart (Nebraska actually submitted one!), but the big bruising sophomore could still play a crucial role.

All those short scoring chances near the goal line that ended in field goals instead of touchdowns? It’s not a stretch to think that the 6-foot-1, 235-pound McCray would be able to punch through one of them.


I heard exactly zero chants of “Go Big Red!” in the first 30 minutes i was in lincoln nebraska this morning. My first trip here for football is somewhat disappointing. Either the big crowds were somewhere other than near Memorial Stadium, or the Cornhuskers have given up on the season.

I am a child. It’s easier than before. Even after a disastrous start to the season, there seems to be renewed hope for what interim coach Mickey Joseph can do. That’s the gist of what I learned after spending time in Omaha, Neb., on Friday night. Anything would be better than Scott Frost, right?

That’s what makes this game interesting for Illinois. For the first time since divisions began in the Big Ten, the Illini have legitimately earned a division title. And Nebraska does not only play the role of “psyler”. Illinois hasn’t shut this thing down yet, and the Huskers certainly aren’t out of the chase (along with Purdue and Wisconsin).

The extent to which this Illinois State team has been driven by the process this season, which is a direct result of coach Brett Bielem’s approach, should indicate that this will turn into something of a trap. As an aside, it’s still wild to think that Illinois football could have trap games. This season is very different from any other I’ve covered during my time in Champaign.

How far the Illini will take it remains to be seen, of course. A win in Lincoln tonight would obviously be another strong step in the right direction.

Scott Ritchie is a reporter for The News-Gazette covering college basketball. His email srichey@news-gazette.comand you can follow him on Twitter (@srrichey).


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