Illini football gets its revenge against Purdue

By Peter Bailey-Wells, Sports editor

WEST LAFAYETTE, INDIANA — Bill Cubit didn’t sleep much after his team was punched in the mouth 39-0 by Penn State last week.

And despite Illinois’ 48-14 stomping of Purdue on Saturday, he said his restless nights will continue, because his team’s season isn’t done yet.

The Illini’s dominating victory over Purdue was in hand so quickly that Cubit could have taken a quick catnap on the sideline, but he didn’t take his foot off the gas against the Big Ten West’s worst team. He wasn’t taking this one for granted: He knew his team needed a big win.

During his postgame remarks, he seemed resolute in his belief that this team is destined for more than mediocrity.

The much-documented difference-maker Saturday was senior running back Josh Ferguson, who was better than all of the players on Purdue’s defense all day. Freshman Ke’Shawn Vaughn held up his end of the bargain too, making the pair the first Illini running back duo to each rush for more than 100 yards since Donovonn Young and Troy Pollard did it to Western Michigan in 2011.

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Cubit was the head coach of that Bronco team, and he was a happy man to be on the other side of such a strong offensive performance Saturday. His team put up nearly 600 yards — the Illini made it to 595 — and didn’t turn the ball over at all.

The game was so good for the Illini offense that Wes Lunt rushed for a first down, a topic of much amusement for Lunt and Ferguson after the game.

This game was just what the doctor ordered for the Illini following their loss to Purdue. They clearly created a lot of momentum for themselves, and a tough matchup with the Buckeyes looming likely won’t derail that positivity.

Most people predicted this game would be a lot closer than it turned out. I wrote before the game that there were no moral victories to be found at Ross-Ade Stadium, and the Illini played like they knew that. They played like, as Teddy Karras said after the Penn State loss, “we’re all on the hotseat.”

From the get-go, Purdue quarterback David Blough was under pressure, the offense moved like a machine and the Illinois special teams — with the exception of one missed field goal — played close to mistake-free football.

The Illini needed to win to keep their bowl hopes alive. Cubit needed a win to keep his permanent head coaching job hopes alive. And all parties held up their respective ends of the bargain, not just surviving Saturday’s game, but attacking everything in sight with an intensity that could only be represented by the team roaring with delight when the Purdue Cannon was brought out for the postgame celebration.

Look where the Illini were after playing Purdue last season: 3-3 overall, with an abysmal Big Ten record under Tim Beckman and little hope of playing in a bowl game after losing to one of the conference’s bottom-feeders.

Now, they’re riding high. So Bill Cubit can be forgiven if he catches a quick nap on the bus home from Indiana. He earned it.

Peter is a junior in Media.

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