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