The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

Illini fall at hands of Walters, Card

Photo courtesy of Mick Walker/Wikimedia Creative Commons
Purdue Football Coach Ryan Walters speaks at 2023 Big Ten Media Day in Indianapolis. Walters, former defensive coordinator for Illinois tactics takes down the Illini on Saturday.

As the Illini (2-3, 0-2) entered Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette, Indiana, they entered more than just a rivalry game. Sure, these teams are close and have endured some fierce matchups over the years, but this one just meant more. A statement was made on Saturday afternoon, with the Illini getting trounced in a 44-19 loss.

The Purdue Boilermakers (2-3, 1-1) are manned by former Illini defensive coordinator Ryan Walters, who left for the Gold and Black this offseason. Not only did Walters leave for a Big Ten West rival, but he also had some messages for Illinois via Twitter following his departure.

One of the first decisions Walters made at his new school? Securing his new quarterback. The Illini had two major quarterback transfers visit this offseason, sophomores Hudson Card and Luke Altmyer. Card, the higher rated of the two, left Champaign without committing and joined Walters in West Lafayette.

His first decision against his former team? Allowing their offense on the field first, as they have started every game thus far. Altmyer rushed for 39 yards on the first play, the only smooth play of the drive. A fourth down conversion pushed the Illini into the red zone, but Altmyer missed a wide-open redshirt freshman tight end Henry Boyer for a touchdown forcing them to settle for a field goal.

Defensively, the Illini showed Walters what he was missing on their opening drive, only rushing three but still getting some pressure with junior defensive tackle Jer’Zhan Newton. A punt pushed the Illini back inside the ten, where their mistakes continued.

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”We need all 11 guys,” said junior receiver Isaiah Williams. “That’s the biggest thing right now, everyone getting on the same page and being able to consistently do your job.”

Altmyer dropped back to pass and missed an open Casey Washington on the right side. He also missed a blitzing defensive back who blasted Altmyer’s blindside resulting in a fumble. Purdue fell on the ball in the endzone for the game’s opening touchdown and a 6-3 lead.

“We aren’t protecting our quarterback,” said head coach Bret Bielema. “Luke is gonna take some heat, and in the second half, once they saw the issues we were having in protection, they just kept bringing it.”

The Illini offense did little on their next two drives, and the defense began to fatigue early in the second quarter. Just as the Boilermakers started picking up some rhythm on the ground, the Illini defense stood tall. Sophomore linebacker Dylan Rosiek punched the ball out of the running back’s grasp for a turnover.

Altmyer led the offense onto the field with renewed confidence, ready to reward the defense for their huge stop. After sophomore Josh McCray rushed for a quick seven-yard gain, Altmyer picked up a first down with a 17-yard completion to junior receiver Pat Bryant. Williams was the next target, hauling in a pass and running inside the red zone for a 49-yard gain. McCray took it from there with another seven-yard run into the endzone to regain the lead.

The lead didn’t last long, as Purdue responded with their own lengthy drive. A pass interference call — that Bielema strongly disapproved of — and a 30-yard completion converted back-to-back third downs for the Boilermakers as they got past midfield. Their first offensive touchdown put them up 13-10 before late field goals for both teams kept the lead at three heading to the locker room.

Purdue shot out of a cannon in the second half, marching 75 yards for a touchdown to extend its lead to 10. The Illini could not respond as Bryant dropped a potential 63-yard touchdown pass, and the game began to get out of hand. While the Illini shot themselves in the foot a bunch, it was clear Walter’s had his defense ready.

“I knew, going against Coach Walt every day, he knows (Illinois’) offense,” Williams said. “There were several times out there on the field where those guys knew exactly what we were going to do.”

Missed opportunities and sloppy penalties again plagued the Illini, two characteristics that have been evident in each game this season.

“Well, obviously very disappointed,” Bielema said after the game. “The tail end of the game was probably third downs. We were abysmal on offense, and they were pretty good on defense.”

The Illini have shown they are more than capable of winning these games, but they learned the hard way that unforced errors do not result in joyful endings. Card and Walters get the first laugh, but it certainly won’t be the last.



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About the Contributor
Ben Fader
Ben Fader, Sports Editor
Hello, I’m Ben! I’m a junior at Illinois and assistant sports editor at The Daily Illini. I’m majoring in journalism and minoring in communications and recreation, sport and tourism. This is my third year with The Daily Illini, and I can’t wait to produce some amazing work. Feel free to contact me at my email below with questions or concerns, or if you just want to talk sports!
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