WEST LAFAYETTE – Purdue is getting closer, but the Boilermakers still aren’t quite there.
Steve Hull caught a career-high 10 passes for 169 yards and two touchdowns to help Illinois defeat the Boilermakers 20-16 on Saturday afternoon.
Akeem Hunt ran for a career-high 102 yards and a touchdown and Danny Etling completed 20 of 29 passes for 163 yards for Purdue, (1-10, 0-7), but the Boilermakers’ skid reached nine games after their offense was shut out in the second half.
I thought our guys worked extremely hard, Purdue coach Darrell Hazell said. Obviously, we needed to make more plays offensively in the last two quarters. We have to keep our defense off the field and put some points on the board.
Purdue had a chance to win late.
The Boilermakers reached the Illinois 30-yard line for a fourth-and-9, but Etling was pressured and threw an interception to V’Angelo Bentley to end the threat with just less than a minute to play.
It was a frustrating finish to Purdue’s closest loss during the skid.
We were just stopping ourselves, Etling said. There were maybe some missed progression reads here, missed block there, miscommunication, misalignment – just things we can easily fix. We have to do it, and that’s where we need to go from here.
Nathan Scheelhaase completed 24 of 30 passes for 257 yards and two touchdowns and Josh Ferguson ran for a career-high 115 yards for the Fighting Illini (4-7, 1-6 Big Ten), who snapped a six-game losing streak this season and a 20-game skid in conference play.
On Purdue’s first possession, Hunt took a pitch, made some nifty moves and broke loose for a 62-yard touchdown run, giving the Boilermakers a 7-0 lead 85 seconds into the game. The Boilermakers had been shut out in the first quarter of its five previous games.
Illinois responded by going 80 yards in nine plays to tie the score. Scheelhaase found Hull found for a 3-yard touchdown pass.
Purdue led 14-7 at the end of the first quarter, but the Boilermakers maintained their advantage for just six seconds in the second quarter. Scheelhaase’s 30-yard touchdown pass to Hull tied the score.
Frankie Williams of Purdue returned a punt 84 yards for a touchdown late in the third quarter, but it was called back because of an illegal block in the back.
Early in the fourth quarter, Hull caught a 42-yard pass from Scheelhaase to put Illinois in scoring range. Taylor Zalewski’s 32-yard field goal put the Illini ahead 17-14 with 12:28 remaining.
Later, Illinois appeared to score a touchdown, but Martize Barr went out of bounds before catching the ball in the end zone, so he drew an illegal touching penalty. Zalewski made a 23-yard field goal to push Illinois’ lead to 20-14 with 7:08 to play.
Purdue scored a team safety on the final play of the game as Illinois ran out the clock.
Hazell was impressed with the defense, which held Illinois to two field goals after halftime.
I thought they did an amazing job, especially in the second half, Hazell said. What they did is play well.