Illinois was able to dial up so many conversions in part because the Illini often didn’t have far to go.
The longest third down Illinois faced was 11 yards, which it converted. The second-longest was the third-and-7 to start the third quarter and eventually led to the fourth-down run.
On average, Illinois need to pick up just a hair under 4 yards every time it faced third down, with 10 of the 17 such situations being shorter than 5 yards.
It’s not as if the Illini were some third-down juggernaut, either. Illinois’ offense ranked 102nd in the country in converting third downs, doing so just 33% of the time.
But that was still considerably better than Nebraska’s defense, which came in allowing opponents to convert on half of its chances.
“We gave up a couple 50-50 balls, we’ve got to win them; gave up a couple big runs where somebody was out of their gap,” NU coach Scott Frost said. “Overall it was just not a good enough performance by anybody. We’ve got to learn this lesson that nothing’s going to be given to you, and we better come ready to play every week.”
Offensively, the Huskers were just 4-of-12 trying to convert their own third downs. At 32% NU’s conversion rate is the worst in the Big Ten. The defense ranks 13th in the league in such scenarios.
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