I always enjoy when Purdue plays at Illinois. The drive over to Chambana is an easy one from Indianapolis, tickets are cheap, they have a Binny’s Beverage Depot for a wealth of beers, there is still a living, breathing Garcia’s Pizza, and Illinois usually is not a good football team. I have done this trip six times now and four times I have come back with a win.
Today was right on par with that. We headed out at noon to make the drive over to Champaign. Interstate 74 had construction almost the entire 114 miles from Indianapolis to Champaign, but we got over there in time to raid Binny’s like pirates before kickoff. Then it was time to find parking and head in.
It was a slow start for the Boilers. After getting a stop Purdue was unable to score and Illinois was able to waltz down the field to take a 7-0 lead. The big play was a 52 yard pass from AJ Bush to Reggie Corbin. In a way, that was a blessing and a curse for the Illini. Their downfield passing game has been awful all year, but they connected on one early. That seemed to give them license to throw deep the rest of the day. Bush attempted multiple deep balls, but only had an additional 118 yards passing on 24 other attempts.
And then, with a bloodied lip, the Purdue offense unleashed absolute holy hell on Illinois.
We neeed just five plays to go 75 yards and tie it. David Blough hit Isaac Zico for 39 yards and Rondale Moore for 24 yards on the first two plays. Zico capped the drive and the Purdue defense got a three and out. We then only needed three plays, with Moore going 60 yards on the first play and Jared Sparks completing his first career pass attempt for a TD to Blough. Sparks has been the hardest luck player in search of his first career TD. He has dropped passes in the end zone, had a TD overturned, and today ended up about 6 inches short on a reception. Seeing him get a TD pass was important because it just makes opposing defenses worry about something else.
Purdue needed 8 plays to gain 140 yards and get two touchdowns. The defense would not surrender a point the rest of the way and Illinois only really got close one time, missing a field goal after a Jacob Thieneman sack. Purdue was so dominant offensively that it registered its highest point total under Jeff Brohm and it is the most points we have scored in a road game since dropping 52 at Toledo in 2007. We haven’t scored at least 46 points in a Big Ten road game since a 56-21 win at Northwestern in 1998.
And we even left points on the field. Spencer Evans had an extra point blocked and a botched snap led to another failed attempt. Blough threw his first interception in weeks, but in the end it didn’t matter. Purdue ran up 611 yards of total offense, one of the best days in school history. Blough had 377 yards passing, 3 TD passes, and a TD reception. D.J. Knox had 150 yards on only 7 carries. Alexander Horvath got his first career TD. Zico had a career day with 127 yards and 2 TDs on just 5 receptions. Moore was Moore with 101 yards and a TD on 4 catches. Even Nick Sipe got his first career action, giving us the answer of “who is the third string QB: Sipe of Jack Plummer?”
To be honest, it was boring, and that is what is so good about it. After the opening drive Illinois was not going to stop the Purdue offense. Bush hit on a long pass so Illinois kept trying and failing to hit on another. We dropped 46 unanswered points on them and won in a rout. The Illini entered with their running game as a strength and had only 69 yards on 31 carries. I thought Illinois could be a dangerous team because they were 3-2 and played a pair of ranked teams close in their two losses. Instead, we blasted them. Their fans were leaving their homecoming in the third quarter and it was a joy to take over Memorial Stadium as a result.
Now Purdue is 3-3 after a disastrous first three games. The second half of the season features four teams that have been ranked at least one week this year and it starts with Ohio State. The Buckeyes will be ranked No. 2 when they come to West Lafayette and are the best team we will face all year. It’s going to be a tall order to beat them, but Purdue has grown by leaps and bounds since losing to Eastern Michigan. The offense finally putting up Brohm-esque numbers and is moving the ball at will. We’ll need every bit of it, too, as the Ohio State offense is in hyperspace compared to us.
But upsets happen. Crazy things happen. Sure, we’re going to need to play perfect and have the Buckeyes have an off day, but you never know. We haven’t beaten a top 5 team since 1999. We haven’t beaten a top 2 team since beating #2 Ohio State in 1984.
Maybe we’re due?