WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — The Cannon remains where it’s been the last three years.
After going 2-2 through the first four games of the season, Big Ten West play began for Illinois at Ross-Ade Stadium Saturday in West Lafayette against Purdue.
In what was expected to be a tough, close matchup against former defensive coordinator Ryan Walters, Purdue (2-3, 1-1 Big Ten) made Illinois look silly in a 44-19 rout.
“Bottom line, you got to make plays in this league,” said head coach Bret Bielema postgame. “As coaches, we just got to do so much better.”
HOW IT HAPPENED
On the first drive of the game, things looked up for Illinois (2-3, 0-2 Big Ten). Behind a 39-yard Luke Altmyer run on the very first play — and a fourth-and-one conversion — you would’ve thought the drive might end with a touchdown. Instead, Illinois settled for a Caleb Griffin field goal.
Soon after is when turnovers would begin to hurt — as usual. On the ensuing possession, Altmyer fumbled the ball deep in Illinois territory after being sacked and it was recovered by Purdue’s Joe Anderson in the endzone for a TD.
With the score then 6-3 in favor of the home team, the Boilermakers were working a promising drive before running back Devin Mockobee coughed it up in Illinois territory.
The Illini took advantage, going 80 yards down the field and ending up in the endzone thanks to Josh McCray.
But the lead would only last for a few minutes. Purdue ended up scoring its first offensive touchdown of the game quickly after to retake the lead.
Each side would both kick one through the uprights before half, and it would be the Boilers in front 16-13.
“Knowing that we had spotted them a touchdown and the defense kind of held their own . . . 16-13 half, felt really good about it,” Bielema said.
The second half is when the game became a blowout. In the third quarter alone, Purdue outscored Illinois 21-0.
“That collapse in the second half just can’t be tolerated,” Bielema said. “To have that thing fall apart the way it did is just very disturbing.”
Altmyer would find Pat Bryant in the end zone for a garbage time score in the fourth which was followed by, you guessed it, the last Purdue touchdown.
Illinois has now dropped its fourth-straight against Purdue and has lost eight of the last 10 series matchups. This is turning into a long season.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Caleb Griffin drills a 53-yard field goal to cut the lead to three before half.
Josh McCray scores the first Illini TD of the day.
Illinois failed to convert on its first nine third downs and would end up being 2-of-13 in that category.
“The tale of the game was probably third downs,” Bielema said. “We were abysmal on offense.”
TWEET OF THE GAME
Illinois-Maryland on Peacock in two weeks!
Lmao this is what I bought peacock for?— Mihir Chavan (@MihirChavan_) September 30, 2023
Another edition of Friday night lights, this time at home.
Illinois will welcome in Nebraska Oct. 6 at Memorial Stadium. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. and will air on FS1.