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November 17, 2012
Purdue holds on vs. Illini, 20-17
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) -- Akeem Hunt turned a short pass into a 63-yard touchdown, and Purdue took another step toward a second consecutive bowl berth with a 20-17 victory at Illinois on Saturday.
Hunt's big play gave the Boilermakers (5-6, 2-5 Big Ten) a 13-3 lead in the third quarter. After Illinois pulled within 13-10 on a 16-yard touchdown run by Dami Ayoola, Ralph Bolden's 63-yard run set up Akeem Shavers' 6-yard TD scamper for a 20-10 Purdue lead.
With their first back-to-back Big Ten road wins since 2009, the Boilermakers stayed alive in their chase for postseason play. If Purdue can beat Indiana at home next Saturday to earn bowl eligibility, it will be its first three-game winning streak in one season since 2007.
The Boilermakers rallied after losing their first five Big Ten games, but Purdue never trailed against Illinois.
Hunt made a big play on a short pass. After Robert Marve rolled to his right, he threw back to Hunt on the left. Hunt sped down the sideline untouched. Bolden's long run, meanwhile, was a big contribution after multiple knee surgeries had sidetracked his career.
Shavers rushed for 99 yards and Bolden had 93. Marve threw for 173 yards, and the Boilermakers didn't commit a turnover in winning at Illinois for the first time since 2006.
Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase scored on a 2-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to cut the deficit to 20-17, but Illinois (2-9, 0-7) remained the only Big Ten team without a conference win. The Illini have a 13-game conference losing streak.
Ayoola's score was the first by the Illini offense in roughly eight quarters. His touchdown came one play after Scheelhaase connected with Darius Millines on a 22-yard pass on third and 14.
Illinois started the day ranked last in the Big Ten in total offense, scoring offense and rushing offense, and the Illini didn't get much done until late in the game. Scheelhaase completed 22 passes for 160 yards and rushed for 76 yards to lead Illinois.
The Illini were already going with some unconventional thinking, using co-coordinator Chris Beatty to call plays on first and second down before colleague Billy Gonzales handled the duties on third down. Illinois also used defensive tackle Akeem Spence as an extra blocking back.
Purdue took a 6-3 halftime lead on field goals of 31 and 29 yards from Sam McCartney. The Illini's only scoring in the half came on a 54-yard field goal, the third-longest in school history, by Taylor Zalewski.
Illini coach Tim Beckman quotes
It's a loss but our players played extremely hard until the end. We had some chances but were unable to succeed. We turned the ball over too much again and they had a couple of big plays that they capitalized on. That was the difference in the football game. As always, I want to give credit to Purdue for winning the football game. Now we have to look to our last game against the team from upstate.
You cannot turn the football over and win; I've been saying it since day one. You have to take care of the ball and create more. Purdue wasn't scoring off those early turnovers but it was hurting us. It was taking away our opportunity to build momentum. It deflates you.
We have to protect the quarterback. We do have to continue to stretch the field vertically but they were playing a lot of man to man defense today and bringing five, six, or even seven guys. We need to get the ball out faster on screens and other plays that will help us open up the longer plays.
The two big runs for them really hurt our defense. They had almost 400 yards of offense but 120 or 130 of those came on two plays. That's the game of football though; you never know when those plays are going to happen. On the one, we were in man coverage and one of our linebackers made a mental mistake that left the entire side of the field open to his man. It was just a throwback screen and our guy got mixed up.
Next week is huge. This team (Illinois) hasn't won a senior game since 2007. We were shooting to change that tonight. We wanted to give this senior class an opportunity to be a winner. Northwestern has done a fabulous job this year. We are going to have to be focused and work extremely hard this week to make sure that is something that we can do next Saturday.