CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — That really sucked.
Saturday afternoon’s Senior Day slugfest at Memorial Stadium would determine who becomes the frontrunner for the Big Ten West crown, and unfortunately, Purdue delivered.
Led by the balanced attack of QB Aidan O’Connell’s offense and plenty of Illinois penalties, Purdue triumphed in a back-and-forth battle, 31-24.
“You will learn more from your moments of failure and adversity,” said head coach Bret Bielema.
Up 28-21 late in the fourth quarter, the Boilermakers faced a 4th and 9 in Illini territory. With the game on the line, O’Connell stepped up in the pocket and delivered a bullet to WR TJ Sheffield.
First down. Game over.
HOW IT HAPPENED
Illinois (7-3, 4-3 Big Ten) started the game in eerily similar fashion to the past few weeks, using a 6-play, 74-yard drive to set up Chase Brown for his sixth rushing touchdown of the season.
However, the Illini wouldn’t keep the lead for long. After a series of punts by both teams, Purdue (6-4, 4-3 Big Ten) ran a 5-play scoring drive, resulting in a Devin Mockobee rushing touchdown of his own to tie the game at 7.
Although the score was tied, the rest of the stats didn’t indicate it. Purdue was in control of the game halfway through the second quarter, outgaining Illinois by 94 yards, recording 9 more first downs, and having a nearly 10-minute advantage in time of possession.
The Illini retook the lead with Brown’s second touchdown of the afternoon, but an O’Connell 32-yard touchdown pass (which was nearly intercepted) to star WR Charlie Jones sent the game into half tied at 14.
In the second half, the score continued to go back and forth. However, in the plays that mattered, the Boilermakers stood tall.
With the game deadlocked at 21 in the fourth quarter, Purdue QB Aidan O’Connell faced a 3rd and 7 with a chance to give his team the lead. Scanning the field, O’Connell found TE Payne Durham for a go-ahead, 12-yard touchdown.
On what was Durham’s second touchdown of the day, the Boilermakers didn’t look back.
When Illinois needed a score most, the offensive stars couldn’t get it done. QB Tommy DeVito only threw for 201 yards, and his 56% completion percentage was the lowest of his Illinois career (min. 15 pass attempts). Star RB Chase Brown was held to 98 rushing yards, halting his program record of 10 straight games with at least 100 rushing yards.
A couple of late field goals were the final two scores for each team.
The Illini have now lost back-to-back games for the first time this season. As a result, they no longer have the lead in the Big Ten West.
Along with at least one win in its last two games, Illinois needs plenty of help to secure a trip to Indy.
“The tough news is we didn’t do enough the last two weeks,” Bielema said. “Obviously though, it’s a race that’s nowhere close to being done.”
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
- BOILER MISCUES: On the first two Purdue drives of the game, they got within the Illinois 30-yard line but both resulted in no points. Purdue failed to convert a 4th-and-5 and missed a 44-yard field goal respectively.
- PI CALLS: Late in the second quarter, Illinois DB Devon Witherspoon intercepted Aidan O’Connell but was called for pass interference (not sure how). The questionable call was followed on the next play with Purdue’s second touchdown of the day.
“A lot of penalties today that we got to make sure that we assess,” said head coach Bret Bielema. “[Have to] realize what we’re doing to make sure those aren’t called again.”
The Illini defense was called for FIVE pass interference penalties on the day. In the previous 9 games, they only had four.
- MORE PENALTIES: With the game tied at 21 late in the third quarter, Purdue went on a touchdown drive in which 60 of the 77 yards came from four penalties (two via pass interference). Penalties killed Illinois today.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
WR Brian Hightower shows off his athleticism on a dart from Big Time Tommy.
Brian Hightower went up and got it. @longlivee14 x @IlliniFootball pic.twitter.com/F6oQEHn3oY— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) November 12, 2022
Strike a pose, Chase.
He struck the @HeismanTrophy pose! @chasebrown____ x @IlliniFootball pic.twitter.com/xIPI7y8tPI— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) November 12, 2022
The Illini defense has recorded at least one interception in every game this season and in 13 straight overall, dating back to last season.#Illini | #HTTO— Illini Stats & Notes (@IlliniStats) November 12, 2022
With 98 yards rushing today, Chase Brown is now second on Illinois' all-time rushing list with 3,005 yards.— Illini Stats & Notes (@IlliniStats) November 12, 2022
He is the second player in program history with at least 3,000 yards in their Illinois career.#Illini | #HTTO
TWEET OF THE GAME
"Sup? @HeismanTrophy "— Brad Repplinger (@TCRBrad) November 12, 2022
- @chasebrown____ pic.twitter.com/PPTLZPP6f1
The Illini will head to Ann Arbor and take on their first ranked opponent of the season next Saturday against Michigan.
Kickoff will be at either 11 a.m. or 2:30 p.m. and will air on ABC.