Welp, I was wrong, again. This marks two weeks in a row that I have incorrectly predicted the Purdue game, but this time, I’m glad about it. This Purdue team looked broken last week against Iowa but was able to pull it together against arguably the best defense in the country. Purdue’s offense has a bounce back of its own within the first half, as it drove the ball well during the first three drives but came away with zero points. The third of these drives ended with an Aidan O’Connell interception that was very reminiscent of the previous two games. Luckily, the defense would not allow an Illinois score, and then the offense woke up. On 4 of the next five drives on offense, Purdue would score a touchdown, perhaps exhausting their demons against Iowa. By the final whistle, Purdue had shown that it was not going to lay down and die, but rather fight and scrap (perhaps a bit too much) until the end.
Maybe Purdue did, in fact, burn the game tape from last week because the offense was able to do what no offense has been able to against Illinois all season. This game was night and day compared to last week, as the offense looked more balanced, and AOC was able to spread the ball around. Before I go any further though, I have to give a huge shoutout to the offensive line in this one. The group did not allow a single sack to an elite group and continued to have success with Devin Mockobee in the run game. Not only that, but there were times when AOC had all day to throw, so props to the big boys. I am also glad to report that TJ Sheffield and Payne Durham were able to get the ball alongside Charlie Jones today. Payne was able to exert his will at times, jumping over and dragging defenders while also being agile like on his tiptoe catch in the corner of the endzone. Although Sheffield did not score a touchdown today, he had a few major catches, but none bigger than a grab over the middle with a defender on his back on 4th and 9. This allowed the Purdue offense to bleed Illinois of its timeouts late in the fourth quarter as well as the clock itself. It was a slower day for Charlie Jones, but he still put up 66 yards and a touchdown catch on a beautiful pass by Aidan O’Connell over the outstretched arms of the Illini defender. Altogether, the trio of Durham, Sheffield, and Jones combined for 17 catches, 208 yards, and 3 TDs, a good day against a fantastic secondary.
In the rushing game, it was pretty much the Mockobee show as he had 28 of the teams 33 carries. Devin was able to rush for 106 yards and a TD, adding to his stellar freshman campaign. However, I think the two rushing plays that everyone will remember were by Aidan O’Connell. It is no secret that AOC is not a good runner in space, but on two different occasions, Purdue exploited that fact as AOC took the ball to the right side for an option toss to the running back but kept the ball. The first time, O’Connell scampered for 9 yards before sliding down and the second time, AOC managed for 24 yards before doing a stop and sit maneuver that would make a baseball player look away. But he didn’t get hit late or hurt himself sliding, so I will take it.
For the first 20 minutes of this game, I thought the defense held firm. Yes, Illinois scored a touchdown on its first possession but the next three drives, Illinois only managed 6 yards on 3 straight 3 and outs. Drives seemed to be very hit or miss for the defense today, as Illinois seemed to drive down the field for a score or need to punt after 3-6 plays. At times, the Purdue offense did them no favors, but they dug deep and held on. Tommy DeVito came into this game completing over 70% of his passes and he was held to 18/32 (56%) with several well defended passes. The rushing defense held a dark horse Heisman candidate to 98 yards rushing on 23 carries. Chase Brown was not able to affect the game as much as usual as this was his first game this season that he did not break 100 yards. There are still some issues on the defensive side, such as some tacking issues but there were a couple nice open field tackles made today. Plus, the defense was able to force a turnover today, a much-needed interception off a tipped ball at the line of scrimmage in the fourth quarter. The defense hadn’t forced a turnover since the Nebraska game, so props to Kieren Douglas for getting Purdue back on track.
The wind was blowing strong again today, making it tough on the kicking and punting units but they performed pretty well. Mitchell Fineran went 1-2 kicking field goals, making a 25 yarder and missing a 44 yarder while making all 4 PATs. Jack Ansell had a good day flipping the field as he averaged nearly 45 yards per punt and allowed just 1 return for 0 yards. The hands team also got out there and recovered 2 onside kicks (1 came after 2 Purdue unsportsmanlike penalties on the PAT).
After his 32- yard TD reception, Mr. Chuck Sizzle, Charlie Jones surpassed 1000 yards on the season. A giant congrats to Charlie as he deserves all the recognition he gets.
This game had a lot of laundry today as the teams combined for 18 penalties and 201 yards (this doesn’t include several offsetting penalties). Both teams were chippy, leading to some kerfuffles and a lot of barking. Outside of the chirping, Illinois was called on several DPI’s extending Purdue drives at critical times. It was a real back breaker for the Illini.
I quite enjoyed the uniforms this week, as the black and whites looked clean. I think a gold motion P would have worked on the helmets but who am I to argue when the uniforms look good?
Next week, the struggling Northwestern Wildcats come to West Lafayette and try to get their first win on American soil this season. Besides rooting for a win in Ross Ade, Boilermaker fans will also need to be Golden Gopher fans next week as they take on Iowa in Minneapolis. As it stands, Purdue is in a 4-way tie with Illinois, Minnesota, and Iowa atop the Big Ten West and Purdue holds the tie breaker against Illinois and Minnesota. Purdue winning out against Northwestern and Indiana, coupled with at least one Iowa loss to Minnesota or Nebraska equals a Purdue division crown and trip to Indy to take on Ohio State or Michigan.