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Nebraska Football: What We Learned About the Huskers in Win Over Illinois

Nebraska Football: What We Learned About the Huskers in Win Over Illinois

Nebraska Football: What We Learned About the Huskers in Win Over Illinois

Cornhusker State hospitality went too far during Nebraska's 42-38 win over Illinois. Four turnovers resulting in 21 points for the opposition, to go along with 11 penalties for 119 yards.

But despite the seeming over-eagerness to hand a win to Lovie Smith while repeatedly blasting birdshot into their own feet, the Huskers won. And even with everything Scott Frost's team did wrong, they didn't win by accident.

Have a seat, junior. It's time to rehash what we learned about Nebraska during their clash in Champaign.

1. Scott Frost's offense is evolving

The start-stop nature of Frost's 2019 offense has been nothing short of difficult to watch at times. However, no one can argue that even when it struggles four games into the season, it's productive.

If a lesser offense both literally and figuratively dropped the ball as many times as Nebraska did last Saturday, they probably lose by a comfortable margin. Despite being down 14 points on three separate occasions, the Illinois defense didn't seem to be the biggest threat to the Huskers. That honor went to themselves.

Smith threw his best at Adrian Martinez and friends. The Huskers still ran 98 plays which generated 690 yards and 42 points. Illinois had 61 plays that resulted in 299 yards while managing 38 points.

Regardless of all the setbacks and Illinois getting assist after assist, the Illini couldn't keep up in this track meet. That's because of Frost and what he's built.

2. Wan'Dale Robinson has arrived

If you've seen his high school film, Robinson's performance versus Illinois seemed almost like an inevitability. A game with 89 rushing yards (on 19 carries), 79 receiving (on eight catches), and three total touchdowns (2 receiving, 1 rushing) was an average Friday for the former Mr. Kentucky Football. The hype surrounding Nebraska this year may not be legit, but Robinson's clearly is.

When Maurice Washington headed back to the locker room and Dedrick Mills battled nagging injury, all 190 pounds of Robinson wasn't only ready to excel. He was ready to crack heads in the process. Give credit to running backs coach Ryan Held for preparing him to do so.

Robinson looked incredibly comfortable next to Martinez in the backfield and immediately forces every team on the Big Red's slate to account for him.

3. Erik Chinander can adjust for a good running back

Reggie Corbin's 66-yard run in the first quarter wasn't especially surprising, but it sure seemed ominous. Nebraska fans still have nightmares about running backs shredding previous Blackshirt defenses. Sure, many of them played for Wisconsin, but the problem isn't Badger-exclusive.

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Corbin finished the contest with 134 yards but that includes the big play in the opening frame. Dre Brown also accounted for 59 yards and a score with 36 of that coming on one carry.

However, the most important takeaway here is that despite a team's best backs racking up expected yards, Chinander is able to nullify the end result. Corbin posted a 100-plus yard outing but managed just one touchdown.

It was just one game, but there were some encouraging signs from Nebraska's run defense. This gives hope for the future with several talented backfields coming up on the schedule, such as a visit from Ohio State on Saturday night.

4. Jojo Domann is THE Blackshirt

Herbie Husker is the official mascot of the University of Nebraska but Domann is what every Nebraska defender should aspire to be. Hit after bone-crushing hit, the opportunistic hybrid defender is the whole package.

His stat line versus the Illini (5 tackles, sack, 1.5 TFL) only tells part of the story. Offenses are forced to avoid him as his coverage is tight. Skill players will get smacked in the mouth for venturing into his personal space.

If Domann can take in air and move all vital extremities, he should never leave the field.

5. Nebraska can win in spite of themselves

Amazingly, the Huskers' road win was its first in the Frost era. Equally amazing, it was the first win away from Memorial Stadium they've posted since late October 2017 when they beat Purdue 25-24.

It may only be one game, but they cleared a huge mental hurdle against the Illini.

Over a football field's worth of penalties will easily assist in losing most games if a self-imposed death sentence worth of turnovers doesn't. Putting both on the stat sheet is downright offensive. But being snugly behind the eight ball is enough to make many teams quit.

Frost's players knew deep down that wasn't who they are. Now they've validated that theory. There's no more guesswork.

It wasn't pretty, but to learn this lesson, Nebraska couldn't afford it to be.

— Written by Brandon Cavanaugh, FWAA member and part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Be sure to follow him on Twitter (@eightlaces). To contact him, click here.