Illinois drops second game in a row on Senior Day with Championship chances likely disapparated


Sydney Laput

Sixth-year senior Tommy DeVito warms up before kickoff against Purdue on Saturday.

By Ben Fader, Staff Writer

The Purdue Boilermakers visited Champaign, Ill. for a chilly Big Ten West division matchup, leaving with a 31-24 win and the rivalry canon trophy in their possession once again.

Looking to start strong a week after play calling, execution and special teams play led to a tough loss against Michigan State, the Illini got a fourth down stop at their own 26 on the first drive of the game to give the offense the ball early. 

The offense rewarded the defensive effort as a 32-yard pass to junior wide receiver Brian Hightower got the Illini into position for junior running back Chase Brown to take over. The star rushed four times for 30 yards on the opening drive, punching it in on the final play to give the Illini a 7-0 lead.

Purdue had no trouble getting the ball downfield again, but they came away with zero points as they missed a field goal this time. The miss sparked some quick drives for both teams as two Illini three-and-outs with a Boilermaker turnover sandwiched in between took just three minutes off the clock. 

Redshirt freshman defensive back Tyler Strain was perfectly placed for an underthrown ball by the Boilermaker’s 6th-year quarterback Aidan O’Connell. The pick was the 17th of the year for an Illini secondary that has been one of the better ball-hawking units in the nation.

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    After six drives without a score, the Boilermakers drove inside the Illini 30 for the third time, looking to finally put points on the board. Redshirt freshman running back Devin Mockobee got into the endzone to cap a two-minute, 55-yard drive that tied the game 7-7 midway through the second quarter. 

    The Illini decided to respond and end their own scoreless streak the next drive as DeVito’s arm got them down the field again. The tight end drops continued to plague the Illini as sophomore tight end Tip Reiman dropped a touchdown pass from DeVito. Fortunately, this would not cost them as the legs of Brown and senior quarterback Tommy DeVito helped the Illini retake the lead. 

    The Illini received the opening kickoff but were unable to do much and were forced to punt with the Boilermakers having all of the momentum. They would keep it, as they marched right down the field for a touchdown to take their first lead of the game. 

    The game began to get chippy as Purdue antagonized the Illini every chance they got. This hurt them on the ensuing drive as the Illini got great field position following an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. The DeVito to Hightower connection was true again as they hooked up in the endzone to tie the game. 

    The tie didn’t last long as O’Connell tested the Illini secondary and the group was unprepared. It took under three minutes for the Boilermakers to gain 77 yards and another score to go up 28-21. With the Illini generating no pressure, there were open receivers to choose from for O’Connell and the crowd was silenced as the ball went back to the Illini.

    Four consecutive punts in the middle of the fourth quarter slowed the game down before the final Illini chance. DeVito was intercepted off of a tipped pass to give the Boilermakers the ball with just three minutes remaining. The defense had a chance to get the ball back as the Boilermakers boldly went for it on fourth and nine, but O’Connell’s pass was true and they salted another minute and a half off of the clock before kicking a field goal to go up ten. 

     The pick was the dagger and Purdue twisted it with the field goal.

    With the loss, the Illini no longer control their own destiny in the final two games and have an inside track to the Big Ten Championship game held in Indianapolis, Ind. on December 3.

    Illinois closes out the season traveling to Michigan and Northwestern.



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