That was ugly. I’m not sure anyone ordered more than four hours of Purdue vs Illinois, but these two teams battled it out for the Purdue Cannon. Illinois kicker Chase McLaughlin missed his first field goal of the season as time expired, and Chayce Crouch fumbled in overtime before Purdue kicked a field goal for the win.
Illinois did not play well for long stretches Saturday, particularly on defense, but its patchwork offensive system with Chayce Crouch was enough to move the ball against a porous Purdue defense. Wes Lunt left the game in the second half and wasn’t able to return, and Crouch led a run-heavy attack that was mere inches away from a victory.
This is a Purdue team that just surrendered 50 points to Maryland last week. This Purdue team was held to just 10 rushing yards. I understand that it’s difficult to operate with your backup quarterback, but this isn’t a game that you should ever lose. This has the feeling of 2012 all over again, and it’s really, really hard to pencil in any more wins on the season. This is rock bottom -- just five games into the Lovie Smith era.
Here’s a few things that we learned from Saturday’s contest.
Chayce Crouch played.... well?
Many Illinois fans tend to overlook the junior quarterback because he’s only been used in situations as a designed runner, without looking to throw. Crouch showed off his power running style by accumulating 315 yards on the ground. But Crouch also highlighted a good arm and good poise when he dropped back to throw. He was able to connect on a long corner route in the 3rd quarter and had the confidence to throw a jump ball to Malik Turner, who pulled down a one-handed catch off a deflection. For those that are panicking about the quarterback position in 2017, Crouch showed that he was up to the task when called upon, at least for one game.
Going off this, do we have a quarterback controversy on our hands?
This seems like a silly question, but what does Illinois have to lose? Garrick McGee has made it clear that he wants a dual-threat quarterback, and Crouch fits that system much more than Lunt does. Especially if Lunt is out for an extended period of time — there was no diagnosis, only that he was out for the game — why not see what Crouch can do going forward?
Penalties continue to be an issue for Illinois
I know that the game got a little out of hand in the fourth quarter with personal fouls on both sides, but untimely penalties continued to hurt the Illini throughout the game. I’ve never seen so many offside infractions for a defense, and we saw how bad penalties hurt the Illini last week against Nebraska. This continues to be an issue, and it will make it extremely difficult to win as long as the Illini are giving away more than 100 free yards of penalties per game. A roughing the passer penalty from Carroll Phillips — which saw him get ejected for targeting — extended Purdue’s drive in the final minute, right before Hardy Nickerson Jr’s game-changing interception.
For a team with so many NFL-caliber defensive linemen, Illinois has a Swiss cheese defense
For comparison, Purdue rushed for 10 yards last week against Maryland. For the entire game. Against Illinois, the Boilers rushed for 231 yards and could get whatever they wanted offensively. This defense has continued to incorporate younger players, such as Stanley Green, Patrick Nelson, and Kenyon Jackson, but there has been a significant learning curve. Purdue was able to calmly move the ball in overtime and center it by keeping it on the ground — all despite their starting running back Markell Jones missing the game with injury.