Oct 31, 2020; Champaign, Illinois, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini defensive back Sydney Brown (left) and defensive back Devon Witherspoon (right) tackle Purdue Boilermakers running back Zander Horvath (center) during the first half at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

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Purdue holds off undermanned Illinois

Aidan O’Connell threw for 376 yards and two touchdowns as Purdue held off undermanned Illinois, 31-24, in a Big Ten matchup on Saturday in Champaign, Ill.

Due to positive COVID-19 tests, contact tracing and other injuries, the Fighting Illini (0-2, 0-2) were without 14 players, including their top two quarterbacks, their starting center and their first-string kicker.

Zander Horvath rushed for 100 yards and a touchdown and added 55 yards receiving for Purdue (2-0, 2-0). David Bell caught nine passes for 122 yards and a touchdown and Milton Wright added 90 yards receiving and a score.

Coran Taylor, Illinois’ fourth-string quarterback, completed 17 of 29 passes for 273 yards and two touchdowns but was intercepted twice after he entered the game on the second series.

Taylor, a sophomore whose only experience was a pair of carries for 11 yards in a game last season, was pressed into duty when third-stringer Matt Robinson suffered an ankle injury on the Illini’s first possession of the game.

Brian Hightower finished with 97 receiving yards and a touchdown for Illinois, who scored two touchdowns in about a five-minute span of the fourth quarter to make things interesting.

Purdue led 17-10 at the half on Horvath’s 1-yard run, O’Connell’s 45-yard strike to Wright, and J.D. Dellinger’s 36-yard field goal. The Boilermakers added to the lead early in the third quarter when O’Connell hit Bell for a 3-yard touchdown.

The Boilermakers scored again late in the period. They failed to convert a fourth-and-goal at the 2, but Illinois was pinned at the 1 to start its drive. Two plays later, Purdue’s Jalen Graham recovered a fumble by Taylor in the end zone for a 31-10 lead.

The Illini responded by covering 75 yards in eight plays, capped by Taylor’s 28-yard scoring strike to Daniel Imatorbhebhe to pull within 31-17.

Purdue was forced to punt after a sack by Illinois’ Owen Carney Jr., and Taylor led an eight-play drive, finishing it off with an 8-yard scoring toss to Hightower with 6:36 left in the game.

Illinois got the ball back at their own 48 after a second sack by Carney and an ensuing punt. Facing fourth-and-10 at the Purdue 15, Taylor completed a pass for only 7 yards to Epstein.

–Field Level Media

Field Level Media
Sport Writer & Editor
FLM has a North American focus while tying into regional and hyper-local resources – providing the ability to distribute compelling content through the writing of professional journalists. As the U.S. sports content provider to dozens of digital and print media publishers through strategic partnerships with the likes of Reuters and Nielsen Sports, FLM covers the nuts and bolts with a breaking news desk and game event coverage.

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