Okay everybody, deep breath. Albeit an extremely sloppy game, that is how you have to win sometimes. A win is a win and Purdue now moves to 3-1 on the season after beating Illinois by a score of 13-9.
This was a classic Big Ten game with lots of defense, the lowest scoring output for both teams this year, and a nail-biting finish. In a stalemate between the two Big Ten West squads, it ultimately came down to being effective in the red zone for Purdue after a long 54 minutes with no such luck.
Purdue looked good coming out in the first quarter with two drives in which they got inside the 10-yard line but were unable to come away with a touchdown. Jack Plummer was moving the offense methodically down the field and showing a real field general feel for Jeff Brohm. The issue was executing the plays to get into the end zone, which has not been a huge problem for Purdue this year. Today was an extension of the game against Notre Dame when Purdue couldn’t really get over that hump either.
A large factor in this game was the absences of David Bell, Mershawn Rice, King Doerue, and Zander Horvath. Not to mention, Payne Durham was forced out early in the game after a big hit over the middle. Purdue was forced to go deep into their depth chart at all three playmaking positions on the offense.
After the Boilermakers took a 6-0 lead, they hit an absolute wall and could not muster anything offensively. The team was only able to produce 22 yards and punted 4 times, but luckily for the Boilers, their defense was putting on a special performance.
On the day, Purdue showed its ability to be a bend-don’t-break defense. The George Karlaftis led unit has allowed only 14.3 points per game through four-game this year and looked quite strong today.
Brandon Peters had a tough day at the office, going 14-26 for only 100 yards as Purdue secondary was on lockdown for most of the afternoon. The only aspect Illinois was able to have success with was their running back, Joshua McCray, going for a game-high 156 yards on 24 carries.
Illinois was only able to cut it to 6-3 to close the first half. Coming out of the break, Illinois was able to sway the momentum to get a few field goals and take a 9-6 lead early in the fourth quarter.
In the third quarter, Aidan O’Connell came in to replace starter Jack Plummer when the offense was sputtering. Plummer finished his day with 95 yards on 12-21 attempts but was not able to move the needle. O’Connell gave the offense the spark they needed at the very end, but not without some struggles. He threw two interceptions in the middle of big chunk plays, his time today was a roller coaster but ended with a dime and a game-winner.
A few guys that stepped up big time down the stretch were Milton Wright and Abdur Yaseen who combined for 10 catches and 155 yards. Plays by both of those guys set up the ultimate game-winning touchdown catch by TJ Sheffield with 5:45 to go in the game.
Purdue then gave fans a scare, almost allowing the Illini to get into the red zone to score a go ahead touchdown with less than a minute left. Alas, the defense came up clutch and forced Illinois to turn the ball over on downs and bleeding the clock out for the win.
In the post-game press conference, Jeff Brohm said they put in Aidan O’Connell due to the fact that they were becoming a one-dimensional team on offense. Purdue finished with a measly 38 total rushing yards for a 1.5-yard average.
Brohm was also not ready to name a starting quarterback for next week yet. He said the team needs to do more things to help Plummer and O’Connell out more than they have been.
As mentioned before, this was a very sloppy game but at the end of the day, the Boilers were able to pull it out. That is all you ask of a team, no matter what, get the win. That is what Purdue did tonight.
Going forward there are a lot of unanswered questions about the new quarterback situation, all of the injury troubles, finding a good balance for the offense, and making improvements from the last two underwhelming games.
Purdue is back at home next week to take on Minnesota who is 2-2 and just lost to Bowling Green this afternoon, 14-10. Just as it was today, Minnesota is a should-win game with the opportunity to start the year 4-1 and 2-0 in conference play. Kickoff is set for October 2nd at 12:00 pm EST on the Big Ten Network.
More to come on tonight’s game and what it means going forward coming this week on the site!