The Cannon Trophy will not be returning to Champaign as a result of Illinois’ loss to Purdue on Saturday in West Lafayette.
Let’s take a look at the takeaways from this game.
Josh McCray has taken full advantage of his increased opportunities and has had back-to-back 100+ yard games. He’s shown an ability to be a solid every down back while also breaking some big yardage plays. Bielema developed some great running backs at Wisconsin; let’s see if McCray can get to the same level.
The defense kept Illinois in the game, too. The Illini had 3 sacks and 2 interceptions despite losing Jake Hansen before the game even started. The Purdue offense was kept in check for most of the day and even caused Jeff Brohm to make a change at quarterback to try to jumpstart the offense.
One of the Illini’s strengths this year was supposed to be the offensive line, but unfortunately the experienced unit has struggled to keep its QBs upright. Against Purdue, Illinois gave up 2 sacks and 9 TFLs. The 2 sacks brings the season total to 12, which puts the line last in the Big Ten in sacks given up.
Bret Bielema’s decision to punt from Purdue’s 34-yard line on 4th-and-2 was a baffling call. Illinois had just gotten some more momentum with an interception from the defense and then proceeded to punt the ball.
The correct decision would have been to go for it on fourth down and roll the dice. Keeping the offense on the field allows the Illini to have more control of the game and dictate terms. At the very least, Bielema should have kicked the field goal to try to make it a 12-6 game. After all, James McCourt had scored all of your points up to that point.
By punting when Illinois had a potential scoring opportunity, all he did was give momentum back to Purdue which they used to score the game-winning touchdown.
There were some good things to takeaway from this game but the lasting feeling will be confusion as the things that were supposed to be our strong suits — O-Line and coaching — are the things that need the most improvement.