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Different week, same story in a 29-10 Illinois loss

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The defense plays well enough to win, but the Illini offense can’t score

NCAA Football: Wisconsin at Illinois Mike Granse-USA TODAY Sports

Illinois couldn’t bring the Purdue Cannon back to Champaign and suffered another setback in a 29-10 loss to Purdue on the road Saturday.

As has been the script in recent weeks, Illinois (2-7, 0-6 Big Ten) kept the game close for about 2.5 quarters before the Boilermakers (4-5, 2-4) pulled away late.

Cam Thomas received the vast majority of the snaps at quarterback for the game, and Jeff George Jr. only came in for a couple red zone situations and to throw an interception after Thomas was banged up after a run.

Unlike recent weeks, the Illini were dominated in total yards by the Boilermakers, as the hosts racked up 435 yards compared to Illinois’ 230.

Purdue opened the scoring on its first drive of the game, as running back D.J. Knox scampered 33 yards on fourth down after bouncing off a host of Illini tacklers who seemed to have stopped him short.

The Illini got on the board with a touchdown pass from George Jr. to Dorsey in the red zone in the first quarter, but that would be Illinois’ only trip to the end zone on the day. Purdue pulled away 16-0 in the second half to put the game out of reach.

Illinois’ defense played pretty well for the game, but the young unit couldn’t force turnovers like it has been in recent weeks and got tired as the game wore on.

It’s at that point in the season where there isn’t too much else to learn about the Illini, but let’s take a shot at it anyway:

Cam Thomas and Kendrick Foster can run the ball at least

It was a throwback to 2016 as Foster was the only running back to play Saturday after injuries to Mike Epstein, Ra’Von Bonner and Dre Brown, and Reggie Corbin did not play for some reason. And guess what? The guy that was supposed to be the starter this season was pretty darn good.

Foster accumulated 73 yards on 17 carries and added two receptions for 46 yards.

Thomas was able to create with his legs by rushing for 30 yards on 14 carries (he lost quite a few yards via sacks) and was 10-for-20 for 159 yards throwing the ball.

Thomas showed off his arm on a beautiful deep ball to Ricky Smalling in the first half, but he lacks the consistency to truly threaten defenses through the air.

George Jr. wasn’t any better, by the way, completing just 2 of 7 passes for 11 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

Illinois is just brutal in the 3rd quarter this season

Saturday wasn’t too bad, as Illinois was outscored just 3-0. But for the season, Illinois has been rolled to the tune of 48-13 in the third period.

Read that again. Illinois has scored 13 points in the third quarter in nine games this season.

When you have a team that relies as heavily on the run as Illinois does, falling behind in the second half is an easy way to fall behind quickly in games.

This is especially problematic because third-quarter woes can be attributed to adjustments at halftime. Lovie Smith is viewed as a great coach and Illinois certainly isn’t going to fire him, but coaching adjustments is an area the Illini expected to have an advantage over their opponents. That hasn’t been the case this year.

With three games left, it will be tough for the Illini to win another game this year

Illinois’ remaining schedule isn’t particularly difficult (home vs. Indiana, at Ohio State, home vs. Northwestern), but this team just hasn’t been close to winning since the nonconference.

Fans and coaches can talk all they want about moral victories and playing well, but at the end of the day, there’s a good chance that Illinois ends the 2017 season with just two wins.