All eyes will be on the quarterbacks when Nebraska and Illinois meet on Friday night in Champaign, Illinois. It might not be pretty.
The Cornhuskers (2-2, 1-0 Big Ten) and Illini (2-1, 0-0) have been hamstrung by shoddy quarterback play so far. Nebraska coach Mike Riley continues to voice strong support for Tanner Lee as his starter. Illinois coach Lovie Smith said he’s sticking with Chayce Crouch, though Jeff George Jr. did play all but one series of the second half in the Illini’s last game.
Lee’s 52.1-percent completion rate ranks 12th in the Big Ten, and his nine interceptions are most in the nation. Three of his five interceptions in the last two games were returned for touchdowns.
There’s plenty of blame to spread around. He’s been under pressure, having taken six sacks and getting hurried 14 times. He’s had bad luck on at least two of the picks, with one glancing off the receiver’s helmet and into the defender’s hands and another one coming when a cornerback jumped the route on a screen. He’s made bad decisions.
— Nebraska Football (@HuskerFBNation) September 29, 2017
“Don’t make a bad play worse,” Riley said. “I think that when a guy wants to make a play, and frankly when we are not doing as well as we want to, then you tend to force things. A quarterback has to understand that someone is going to get beat sometimes in pass protection, sometimes the receiver is going to get covered and it’s not there, and now all of the sudden something is coming and things are starting to break down. It’s not going to be a great play, don’t make it worse.”
— Illini Football (@IlliniFootball) September 29, 2017
Crouch is the lowest-rated passer in the Big Ten, and his 51.6-percent completion is 13th. George entered the Sept. 15 loss at South Florida on the second series of the third quarter and completed 12 of 22 passes for 211 yards, with one touchdown and two interceptions.
Smith said George would continue to be the Illini’s “relief hitter.”
“It was a tough situation, he came in and took the snaps and threw some balls and had a little bit of success while he was out there,” Smith said. “So that’s where he is. You bring a relief hitter in there when you need something a little bit different than what you’ve been getting.”