Finally I get to write one of these after an Illinois win. Yesterday was a fun day for Illini fans--it's been a while since Illinois trounced a team, especially in conference play. This game had me a little bit nervous, but I didn't think these players would just quit and let the season finish out. Yesterday they showed that they are still very much in the hunt for a bowl game. Yes, it was Purdue, but the Illini throughly destroyed them in every facet of the game. That really hasn't happened in a Big Ten game since maybe the Wrigley Field game against Northwestern in 2010. Here are the players of the game from the big win:
1. Josh Ferguson
Having Ferg back changed the Illini offense completely. In a matter of one week the Illini offense went from a dreadful, one dimensional attack to a balanced approach that Purdue couldn't stop. The biggest thing the Illini missed about Ferguson was his ability to create space and make a play when there was no space. This is a game-changer on offense, and it led to some big plays. In total, Ferguson finished with 12 carries for 134 yards on the ground. Cubit probably could have given him the ball a little bit more, but I'm sure he wanted to ease him back in after missing a month.
Another aspect of Ferguson's game that the Illini missed was his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. Ferg had 6 receptions for 41 yards including his only touchdown of the day. All in all, this is a different offense when Ferg is on the field, and Illinois will go as he goes for the rest of the year.
And now some beautiful gifs:
*Chariots of Fire plays softly in the distance* pic.twitter.com/peM49o4g14— The Champaign Room (@Champaign_Room) November 7, 2015
LIKE if you missed this RT also if you missed this pic.twitter.com/HQFBGB14wh— The Champaign Room (@Champaign_Room) November 7, 2015
2. Ke'Shawn Vaughn
The return of Josh Ferguson meant that Ke'Shawn Vaughn didn't have to literally play every down. And when you aren't playing every single down of a game you tend to be a little bit fresher and better. Ke'Shawn was fresher and better yesterday. He had a career 180 yards on 16 carries for an average of 11.3 yards per carry. 11.3! Vaughn started off the game by killing a guy:
And then after that he decided he should run all over the Purdue defense:
Vaughn takes it downtown. (Daughntaughn?) pic.twitter.com/3fG6YUaJKY— The Champaign Room (@Champaign_Room) November 7, 2015
Vaughn had a great day being the thunder to Ferg's lightning. That one-two punch in the backfield could really become something for Illinois in these last couple of games. Vaughn should win Big Ten Freshman of the Week this week for his outstanding performance.
3. Clayton Fejedelem
And on the other side of the ball Clayton Fejedelem continues to make his case for first team All-B1G. Yesterday he had 13 tackles and 2 TFLs, just another week for Fej. Ohio State's Vonn Bell is really the only other guy playing at Fej's level right now. He has brought it week in and week out, and has turned into the Illini's best defensive player over these last couple of games. He obliterated some Purdue receivers yesterday, but also continues to never miss tackles.
4. Desmond Cain
Today there are 4 stars because we scored 48 points. Desmond Cain had his best game of the season yesterday and caught his first touchdown pass as an Illini. He finished the day with 6 catches for 74 yards and a touchdown. Here's that TD:
BRINGIN' THE CAIN pic.twitter.com/Y1os8bCOFz— The Champaign Room (@Champaign_Room) November 7, 2015
What I loved about this was that Cain did not alligator arm the football with a defender right in front of him. He did not get scared, he secured the ball, and the Purdue defender didn't wrap up and he scored. That is great to see from a freshman. Cain has slowly become one of the Illini's best receivers, and he will be big in the coming games.
Honorable mentions: T.J. Neal, Carroll Phillips, Eaton Spence
As I said earlier, yes, I know this was Purdue. But the Illini could have laid down after last week, but they haven't, and they dominated a B1G opponent in every facet of the game yesterday.
Purdue is trash and everything, but here's their per rush defense this year: 5.6, 4.1, 4.3, 4.2, 5.7, 6.8, 2.6, 2.7, 9.3 (with the sack)— Steve (@BigTwen) November 8, 2015
This was a motivated Illinois team that came in and destroyed Purdue on their homecoming. They're going to need that same fire next week, and the rest of the yesterday.