Lincoln, NE (SportsNetwork.com) - Ameer Abdullah ran for 208 yards and three touchdowns to carry 21st-ranked Nebraska to a 45-14 rout of Illinois in the Big Ten opener for both teams.
Tommy Armstrong Jr. completed 10-of-21 passes for 166 yards with a touchdown and an interception for the Cornhuskers (5-0, 1-0 Big Ten), who got rushing TDs from Imani Cross and Terrell Newby. Cross had 109 yards rushing, part of a 458-yard ground effort for the Cornhuskers.
It was the second strong showing on the ground for Abdullah. Last week, the senior finished with 229 yards on a career-best 35 carries in a 41-31 win over Miami-Florida.
Kenny Bell caught five balls for 105 yards and a score in the win, during which Nebraska piled up 624 yards.
"It's a good formula if we play cleaner ourselves," Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said. "There were times we didn't play very clean. At the end of the day, if you want to be a great football team, which we're not yet, you have to have high standards. We do. That's what we hold our guys to. And believe me, I take a lot of things statistically. But the stats don't win football games. We have a lot of things we need to keep going and get better at as a football team."
Reilly O'Toole started in place of an injured Wes Lunt (leg) and completed 17- of-38 throws for 261 yards with a score and three interceptions for Illinois (3-2, 0-1).
Abdullah ran 12 yards for a score to cap the game's opening possession. He had 60 of the 75 yards during the march on the ground.
Josh Ferguson countered with a 41-yard TD run, and Illinois picked off Armstrong later in the period, but Daniel Davie intercepted O'Toole to give Nebraska the ball back.
The turnovers continued on the next possession as Cross fumbled the ball away, but Illinois didn't take advantage and Abdullah scored on an 8-yard run early in the second to put Nebraska ahead for good.
Another O'Toole interception led to a 2-yard TD run for Abdullah, and Armstrong connected with Bell for a 63-yard score for a 28-7 cushion.
Geronimo Allison had a 58-yard TD catch for Illinois later in the second, but Drew Brown's 29-yard field goal expanded the margin to 31-14 at halftime.
Cross had a four-yard TD run in the third and Newby a 6-yard scoring rush in the fourth.
"Nebraska they're big and physical. And we knew coming into this week that they were going to run the ball. Outside zone, inside zone, split zone," Illinois linebacker T.J. Neal said. "They wanted to run the ball. They have an aggressive offensive line which made it hard to get to the running back."
Nebraska holds a 9-2-1 edge in the series between the two schools ... Nebraska won for the 15th straight time in a night game at Memorial Stadium, and moved to 41-5 all-time in home night contests ... Abdullah has 3,810 career rushing yards and trails only Ahman Green (3,880) and 1983 Heisman Trophy winner Mike Rozier (4,780) on Nebraska's all-time list.