WEST LAFAYETTE — A steady heavy downpour Saturday turned the field at Ross-Ade Stadium into sloggy, sloppy mess.
It also seemed to have the same effect on Purdue’s offense.
The Boilermakers amassed just 135 yards on the ground while their passing game was effectively shut down by both the Fighting Illini defense and Mother Nature in a 24-6 loss.
“I’ll take the blame, but it was a bad performance,” Purdue head coach Jeff Brohm said. “It’s something where we have to do a lot of soul searching and figure out how hard we want to fix it. We got exposed in many areas. It was a bad day.”
The first five combined possessions of the game resulted in punts. The only highlight was Purdue freshman George Karlaftis’ sack of Illinois quarterback Brandon Peters — his sixth of the season — to end the Fighting Illini’s opening drive.
“We had a chance to drive it down and score at the beginning of the game,” Brohm said. “In those conditions, it was tough to throw the ball. We had at least four solid drops and probably a few more on some check-downs that would add to that mix.”
Illinois (4-4 overall, 2-3 Big Ten) took a 3-0 lead in the first quarter on James McCourt’s 38-yard field goal, capping a seven-play scoring drive that consisted of just running plays. Illini running back Dre Brown rushed for a 44-yard gain on the first play, which helped set up the field goal.
Purdue’s defense stood on the next Illini drive, forcing a quick punt. But Blake Hayes’ 64-yard punt was downed at Purdue’s 1-yard line. The flip of field position quickly became key.
Purdue quarterback Jack Plummer rushed for six yards on first down to give the Boilermakers some breathing room, then a quick 5-yard pass to Bell gave Purdue a first down and slight momentum. But two plays later, Plummer threw an interception that Tony Adams returned 13 yards for a touchdown and a 10-0 Illini lead.
Purdue (2-6, 1-4) used two quarterbacks in the game. Plummer finished 8-of-20 passing for 71 yards and one interception. He also had a fumble that helped set up Illinois running back Reggie Corbin’s 20-yard touchdown run three plays later to put the Illini up 24-0.
Aidan O’Connell was 7 of 13 passing for 65 yards and one touchdown, leading the Boilermakers on their only scoring drive, which began at Purdue’s own 1-yard line.
O’Connell led the offense down the field on a 13-play, 99-yard touchdown drive, capping it when he found Payne Durham for an 11-yard score. On the 2-point conversion, O’Connell threw a swing pass to Horvath, but Horvath was stopped short of the goal line.
“(O’Connell) led us on a good drive at the end of the game,” Brohm said. “He did get us a touchdown. He wasn’t super sharp at the very beginning. But you know what? It was his first time ever playing.”
Purdue’s defense was led by Ben Holt’s 12 tackles, including 1.5 tackles for a loss. Semi Fakasiieki had seven tackles, while Cam Allen and Karlaftis each had six tackles. Karlaftis finished with two tackles for a loss.
Horvath rushed nine times for 57 yards, while King Doerue carried 15 times for 37 yards. Hopkins had five catches for 45 yards, while Bell had five receptions for 18 yards.
Peters passed just six times for 26 yards, but the Illini’s rushing production made up for any passing deficiency. Brown finished with 131 yards on 18 carries, while Ravon Bonner added 48 yards and Corbin had 47 yards.
“I want myself and our guys to be upset when we are not winning and that’s part of the process,” Brohm said. “I think it’s important that all of these young guys stick to it, even the guys that maybe haven’t seen the field. They are very close because they are the next one up and they have to get ready.
Purdue hosts Nebraska at noon this Saturday. It is televised on Fox Sports.