Penalties doom Illini

Illinois´ quarterback Tim Brasic looks to pass the ball while being approached by Purdue´s Tremayne Walker on Saturday in West Lafayette, Ind. Peter Hoffman

Illinois´ quarterback Tim Brasic looks to pass the ball while being approached by Purdue´s Tremayne Walker on Saturday in West Lafayette, Ind. Peter Hoffman

By Derek Barichello

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – The Illini played from behind the chains for most of the day on Saturday in a 37-3 loss to Purdue.

Any time the Illini would get something going offensively, a penalty would push them back and stop them.

The offense’s goal coming into the game was to run on the Purdue defense, and the Illini had success with it. They rushed for 168 yards in the game, good for 4.0 yards per carry.

In their first drive, after picking up two first downs, it was a hold on the offensive line, combined with an illegal formation that put the Illini in 2nd down and 24, killing the drive.

On the next drive, the Illini were called for a false start on 2nd down and 9, and two drives later were called for an illegal shift on 1st down. Forced into passing situations, both possessions ended with interceptions.

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“We felt we could run the ball against them, and we had success with it,” offensive coordinator Mike Locksley said. “We got that penalty for holding, and once we got behind the chains, it made us one dimensional.”

In total the Illini were penalized 11 times for 96 yards. The penalties were not limited to the offense though. The defense committed a crushing 15-yard late-hit personal-foul penalty. The penalty aided Purdue on a 94-yard touchdown drive.

When forced to pass, the Illini were woeful. Quarterback Tim Brasic was 8-17 on the game with 49 yards committing two interceptions and three fumbles, one of them lost, causing him to be removed on two occasions.

Chris Pazan filled in at quarterback – going 3-11 for 48 yards with one interception.

Once Purdue realized Illinois would not be able to pass on them, they loaded eight players in the box and shut down the run.

“We weren’t able to take advantage of that,” Locksley said. “We didn’t throw the ball downfield, and that’s my fault.”

Locksley said that the offensive problems were nothing new for the Illini.

“It’s been the story of the season,” Locksley said. “This is a young team, and they strive off success. When you only get 200 yards of offense, it’s not working well. That rests upon me.”

Head coach Ron Zook said the offense’s poor performance took a toll on the Illini defense.

“We just can’t continually put them in that kind of situation,” Zook said. “We turned the ball over and that gave them the ball deep in our territory.”

Quarterback Change

With 3:30 left in the first quarter, Zook pulled Brasic after he spun away from a defender only to throw an interception. The turnover led to a Purdue field goal.

“It was a foolish pass,” Zook said. “We wanted to settle him down and help him get his head cleared.”

On the next possession, Pazan came in and threw another interception, causing Zook to put Brasic back into the game.

Pazan returned to finish the game after Brasic threw another interception and fumbled the ball three times.

After the game, Brasic apologized.

“To go out and perform like that, I’m sorry you guys had to watch it, and I’m sorry for the fans here,” Brasic said.

Running downhill

Despite the loss, junior running back Pierre Thomas performed well. Thomas carried the ball 11 times for 68 yards, averaging 6.2 yards per carry. Thomas broke out for the longest run of the season for the Illini with a 35-yard scamper with 1:53 left to go in the first half.

His effort did not go unnoticed.

“He’s a leader of this team,” linebacker J Leman said. “He always sticks it out and sets an example for us all to follow.”

Just for kicks

Senior punter Steve Weatherford had another strong performance. Vying for an All-American spot, Weatherford punted six times and averaged 40.7 yards, pinning two inside the 20.

The highlight of his day came when he booted a 70-yard punt into the endzone with the wind for a touchback, giving the Illini field-position advantage.

Bend, but don’t break


The philosophy coming into the game for the Illini was to give up yards but not points.

In the first half they gave up 197 yards and only 10 points.

“If they got two or three yards a play, we’d be satisfied,” said sophomore defensive back Justin Harrison. “We just needed to stop the 10- to 12-yard plays.”

In the second half the floodgates opened as Purdue widened their lead.

“In the second half, we didn’t adjust,” Harrison said. “It wasn’t fatigue.”

The defense wants to keep things simple for the future.

“We can’t think of the game as halves,” Harrison said. “We just need to think of it all one play at a time. What can we do on each play to improve?”

Injured Illini

Offensive lineman JJ Simmons left the game in the first quarter after a knee and ankle injury. He is doubtful for next Saturday.