Brandon Peters threw for one touchdown and ran for another in his first game in nearly a month, Illinois had two rushers go over 100 yards, and the Illini beat the turnover-plagued Huskers for their second straight win.
Luke McCaffrey, making his second start at quarterback, committed the first of his four turnovers on the first play from scrimmage. Wan’Dale Robinson fumbled as the Huskers (1-3, 1-3 Big Ten) tried to come back in the second half.
Illinois (2-3, 2-3) led 28-10 after two quarters, their most first-half points against a conference opponent in 10 years, and won its second road game in as many weeks.
Peters, who had been out since Oct. 24 because of a COVID-19 outbreak on the team, showed no rust in leading a balanced Illini offense that had 285 yards rushing and 205 passing.
Nebraska entered the game as a 16-point favorite and ran into trouble immediately.
McCaffrey ran 4 yards on the first snap and flung the ball into the turf — what was ruled a lateral instead of an illegal forward pass — and Illini linebacker Jake Hansen recovered at the 21.
Chase Brown, who ran for 110 yards on 26 carries, scored the first of his two touchdowns three plays later.
Peters threw to Josh Imatorbhebhe for a 28-yard touchdown for a 21-7 lead after Tarique Barnes intercepted a scrambling McCaffrey’s desperation throw along the sideline.
Illinois added to the lead on Mike Epstein’s 1-yard run two plays after he broke a 58-yarder down the sideline. Epstein finished with 113 yards on 13 carries.
McCaffrey ran 26 times for 122 yards, both career highs, and threw for two touchdowns. But he couldn’t overcome all those turnovers.