Terrell Newby ran for 113 of his 140 yards and scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, and No. 15 Nebraska got a scare from Illinois before winning 31-16 on Saturday.
Newby touched the ball on 18 of Nebraska's last 21 plays from scrimmage and the Cornhuskers (5-0, 2-0 Big Ten) won going away after being down 16-10. They also avenged a 14-13 loss last year in Champaign.
"Newby, I thought, was a real man today," Nebraska coach Mike Riley said.
Illinois (1-3, 0-1) got off only 10 offensive plays after taking its six-point lead with 7:40 left in the third quarter. The Illini have lost 14 straight and 23 of 24 against Top 25 opponents.
Nebraska, favored by three touchdowns, fell behind after turning over the ball on back-to-back possessions. But the Illini had to settle for field goals after each takeaway, allowing the Huskers to stay close.
"We got better today. We still have a loss but I think we made improvements," Illinois coach Lovie Smith said. "We hung in there throughout, had a lead for most of the game, but it's about finishing. We didn't do that."
The Huskers went 18 plays in 10:42 to take a one-point lead early in the fourth. Nebraska was able to keep the drive alive because of two huge penalties on the Illini. Chunky Clements had Tommy Armstrong Jr. stopped for a loss on a third-and-12, but he was called for a horse-collar tackle, and Darius Mosley was flagged for pass interference on a fourth-and-4.
The biggest play, though, was when Newby picked up a first down by inches on a fourth-and-1 at the Illinois 4. The spot stood after a video review, and Newby scored on the next play.
The Illini went three-and-out on their next series, and then Armstrong led an 11-play drive that ended with a 6-yard pass to Trey Foster for a 24-16 lead with 4:32 left.
The Huskers' last TD came when Newby busted through the line and went 63 yards to the end zone.
Armstrong was 16 of 23 for 220 yards, and Jordan Westerkamp caught four balls for 65 yards.
Reggie Corbin led the Illini with 72 yards on nine carries, and Wes Lunt was 13 for 22 for 133 yards.
ILLINOIS: The Illini, who have lost three in a row since winning their opener, gave Nebraska all it could handle. They were done in by untimely and bad penalties and by having to settle for field goals instead of touchdowns after Nebraska turnovers.
NEBRASKA: The Huskers should feel good about getting out of this one with a win and be glad they have an open date next week. They're banged up. Westerkamp was taken to a hospital to be evaluated after he appeared to take a knee to the back while getting tackled. Tight end Cethan Carter injured his elbow early in the game, and running back Devine Ozigbo went out with an ankle injury.
"Looking at our team and watching that thing take place, it appears to be a real good time for a bye week," Riley said.
Nebraska has a chance to move up but probably won't crack the Top 10.
ILLINOIS: The Illini return home to face Purdue, which they beat 48-14 last season.
NEBRASKA: The Huskers have an open date next week before visiting Indiana on Oct. 15. It will be the Huskers' first game against Indiana since they became Big Ten members in 2011.