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Illinois falls short in comeback to Purdue, 31-24

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It’s the first time since 1997 the Illini have dropped a home opener.

NCAA Football: Purdue at Illinois Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The Illini came home to host Purdue at Memorial Stadium, but were without some of their key players.

Prior to the game, the team announced that Brandon Peters and Griffin Moore tested positive for COVID-19. Due to contact tracing, the roommates of Peters and Moore also have to quarantine, so key pieces Isaiah Williams, Doug Kramer and James McCourt were out as well.

Matt Robinson recorded his third start at QB, but his day didn’t last long. Coran Taylor took over for Robinson, who appeared bothered by an ankle injury, early in the first quarter.

The Boilermakers were quick to score both in the first and second quarter, taking a 14-0 lead. Jake Hansen was back this week after coming out of the game with an injury against Wisconsin last week. He forced a fumble that resulted in Mike Epstein scoring the first offensive touchdown of the season.

With James McCourt out due to contact tracing protocol, Caleb Griffin was in the game and scored his points as an Illini — a field goal just before halftime.

Illinois was not able to capitalize on a forced fumble on the .5-yard line by Jer’Zhan Newton. Taylor’s pass was intercepted a few plays later and the Boilermakers scored again.

Things didn’t start heating up for the Illini offense until the fourth quarter. Within about five minutes, a pair of touchdown catches from Daniel Imatorbhebhe and Brian Hightower cut Purdue’s 21 point lead down to seven.

With missed opportunities and missing players, the Illini were not able to complete the comeback.

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED

  • Much-needed takeaways: The Illini were finally able to capitalize on a Purdue miscue. Jake Hansen forced his first fumble of the season and set Illinois up near midfield. Mike Epstein capped the drive off with a 7-yard touchdown run, Illinois’ first offensive score of the year.
  • But wait, there’s more: Illinois freshman Jer’Zhan Newton forced a fumble on Purdue’s opening drive of the second half, where the Illini recovered at the .5-yard line.
  • The flip side of #LovieBall: Coming off of the forced fumble by Newton, Taylor’s pass was intercepted at the 15-yard line. The abrupt stop ended the Illini’s momentum and Purdue was able to score.
  • Welcome to the Big Ten: USC transfer Daniel Imatorbhebhe had his first Big Ten touchdown. The 28-yard catch from Taylor started an Illinois rally in the fourth quarter.

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS

Illinois scored!!!

TWEET OF THE GAME

WHO’S NEXT?

Illinois will welcome the Minnesota Golden Gophers (0-2) to Champaign next Saturday, Nov. 7 at 2:30 p.m. on Big Ten Network.