Matchups to watch in Illinois-Nebraska game

Illinois’ Eaton Spence (27) sacks Nebraska’s Tommy Armstrong Jr. (4) during the game at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Neb. on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2014. The Illini lost 45-14.

By Masaki Sugimoto

Tommy Armstrong Jr. vs. Illinois Defense

So far this season, when Illinois has faced a skilled quarterback, things have not turned out well. The Illini’s two biggest tests at quarterbacks were North Carolina’s Marquise Williams and Middle Tennessee State’s Brent Stockstill. 

Illinois gave up a total of 533 passing yards and six passing touchdowns to the pair. North Carolina routed Illinois 48-14, and the Illini were a missed field goal away from losing to Middle Tennessee State. 

In addition, Williams, the more mobile of the two, rushed for 106 yards. Nebraska’s Tommy Armstrong Jr. is probably the Illini’s toughest opposing quarterback so far. Against Southern Mississippi, Armstrong had 368 passing yards with two touchdowns and rushed for 63 yards and a score.

What does bode well for Illinois is that its defensive line showed some improvement in the pass rush last week, notching three sacks against Middle Tennessee State.

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    Wes Lunt vs. Nebraska Defense

    A similar challenge awaits for the Nebraska defense. The Huskers are giving up 379 passing yards a game. Wes Lunt only threw for 238 yards and a touchdown against Middle Tennessee, but if he gets going, he could throw for four touchdowns like he did against Kent State, or for 316 yards like he did Western Illinois. 

    Nebraska is another team that struggled against a quarterback last week but was able to notch several sacks. They were able to get four sacks against Southern Miss and that helped lead them to a narrow victory. 

    If Lunt starts to feel pressure behind his O-line, this game could turn ugly fast for Illinois, and fans might see a repeat of the North Carolina blowout. If anything, if both defenses can’t stop the quarterback, this game may turn into one heck of a shootout.

    WR Geronimo Allison vs. WR Jordan Westerkamp

    Both receivers are poised to do well in the game, with solid quarterbacks throwing to them and rocky defenses on the other side of the ball.

    Coming into the season, Westerkamp was looked at as one of the big receivers to watch this season — both in the Big Ten and nationally. Allison has an increased role due to the absence of Mikey Dudek. Allison was added to the Biletnekoff award watch list last week, while Westerkamp is absent from the list. 

    Both receivers had big days in their last game. Westerkamp had 11 receptions for 118 yards and a touchdown against Southern Mississippi, while Allison had 10 receptions for 128 yards against Middle Tennessee State. Both want to show that they can hang with the best in the Big Ten, and this is their first opportunity to start proving that.

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