2011 Predictions & Game Story
Week 8 - Illinois at Purdue
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Oct. 22 at Purdue 21 … Illinois 14
CFN Analysis: The offense didn’t exactly shine, struggling to get too much going through the air, and running for just 126 yards, but several players got in the mix with eight different players getting carries and eight catching passes, and the defense held on when it had to. The D clamped down on A.J. Jenkins and didn’t allow the Illini running game to work, holding it to 121 yards and two scores. Ricardo Allen made ten tackles and a pick while Joe Holland and Dwayne Beckford starred with 11 stops. It might have been a shaky second half, but this was the big win the program needed to keep bowl hopes alive. Purdue has alternated between wins and losses, but it’s going to be tough to break through that with road games at Michigan and Wisconsin up next.
Did Ohio State beat the Illini twice? This was a dead team out of the locker room and the offense couldn’t pick up the slack. The offensive line struggled all game long with the Purdue pass rush while pushing the way for just 121 yards and two scores. Nathan Scheelhaase was okay, A.J. Jenkins caught eight passes for 92 yards, and Whitney Mercilus made five tackles with a tackle for loss. Basically, the stars didn’t do enough and no one else stepped up. The second half push came up short, and now the promising start to the year has fizzled with a trip to Penn State up next followed up by dates with Michigan and Wisconsin. 6-5 is possible before the layup at Minnesota to finish up.
(AP) WEST LAFAYETTE, In. - Illinois (6-2, 2-2) lost its second straight. The Fighting Illini scored on a 16-yard run by Jason Ford with 8:12 remaining, and a 2-yard run by quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase to cut Purdue's lead to 21-14 with 54 seconds to play.
But Purdue's Justin Siller recovered the onside kick, and the Boilermakers ran out the clock.
Last year, Scheelhaase passed for four touchdowns and ran for a game-high 118 yards to lead the Fighting Illini to a 44-10 win. This year, he passed for 217 yards, but ran for just 16 yards on 13 carries. He was sacked four times and was under constant pressure. Kawann Short led Purdue with two of the sacks.
Illinois' A.J. Jenkins, who led the nation in yards receiving, finished with eight catches for 92 yards. He never broke anything big, though, as Purdue cornerback Ricardo Allen got the best of their matchup.
Purdue has been playing with confidence. The Boilermakers hit a low with a 38-10 loss to Notre Dame, but rallied with a 45-17 win over Minnesota the next week and a spirited effort in a 23-18 loss at Penn State.
Just two weeks ago, Illinois was undefeated and looked like a solid contender that might hang with Wisconsin and Penn State in the Leaders Division. Then, the Illini stumbled through a mistake-filled 17-7 home loss to Ohio State and now have lost to Purdue.
Purdue's offensive line protected TerBush from Illinois defensive end Whitney Mercilus, who led the nation with 10 sacks and was tied for the national lead with five forced fumbles. Mercilus was held without a sack.
Illinois' defense, ranked 12th nationally in yards allowed per game coming in, gave up 304 yards, including 229 in the first half.
Purdue squandered an early opportunity when Antavian Edison fumbled after the Boilermakers moved into Illinois territory.
But the Boilermakers got it going again on their next possession. TerBush rolled right to avoid the rush and found Siller downfield for a 32-yard gain. TerBush and Siller later connected again for a 6-yard touchdown that gave Purdue a 7-0 lead with 3:25 left in the first quarter.
Mostert scored early in the second quarter on a 21-yard run to give Purdue a 14-0 lead with 11:41 left.
Illinois went three-and-out on its next possession, and Mostert tackled Illini punter Justin DuVernois at the Illinois 14. TerBush found Jared Crank in the end zone for a 4-yard touchdown pass to put the Boilermakers up 21-0 with 7:48 left in the half.
Illinois tried to get Jenkins involved, and backup quarterback Reilly O'Toole fired deep to him late in the first half, but Allen intercepted inside the Purdue 10-yard line.
Illinois (6-1) at Purdue (3-3) Oct. 22, 12:00, ESPN2/ESPN3
Here’s The Deal … Illinois thumped Purdue 44-10 last year after losing five straight in the series, and now the two are in the Leaders and now it’ll be a yearly battle. Each team still needs to play Wisconsin, to go along with other nasty dates, and each needs a win in a big way to prevent a possible major slide.
Purdue has been able to overcome injuries to put together a decent year on offense to make up for a struggling defense, and it came up with a nice battle at Penn State last week in a 23-18 loss. With road game at Michigan and Wisconsin up next, and with Ohio State to follow, the home date against the Illini might be the easy game on the slate for the next month. On the plus side, Purdue has alternated each week with a loss to follow up each win, and now the team is supposed to win again. It’s just plucky enough to do it if the Illini can’t get past last week’s clunker.
Just when everyone was paying attention to Illinois and just when it looked like it was ready to make a major move, it was disastrous at home in a bizarre loss to Ohio State. The Buckeyes completed just 1-of-4 passes, but the Illinois offense couldn’t take advantage of opportunities with three turnovers and no running game. With a trip to Penn State up next with Michigan and Wisconsin to follow, Illinois could go from being the Big Ten’s darling upstart to go right into the tank if it can’t get its first win in West Lafayette since 2001.
Why Illinois Might Win: How did Ohio State stop the Illinois running game? The defensive front got into the backfield time and again and killed running plays before they could get started. From the two sacks and four tackles for loss from John Simon, to the big plays from Johnathan Hankins, OSU was brilliant at taking the Illini out of its game. Purdue isn’t getting a great year from a defensive front that’s been decent against the run against the mediocre ground games, but it’s not generating enough pressure to stop the Nathan Scheelhaase from making the reads and moves he needs to make to find the right hole. Purdue’s linebackers are average, and they need to be great.
Purdue’s passing offense isn’t going anywhere, and it’s not going to have a chance against the Illinois pass rush, while the run defense had problems against Ohio State but stopped just about everyone else. The Boilermaker offense can move the ball, but it’s not getting timely play against anyone with a pulse. If Illinois keep its head screwed on straight and not let the OSU loss linger, it should be able to win on talent alone.
Why Purdue Might Win: Special teams. Illinois might have the worst special teams in the country, while Purdue is doing a good job with the special teams likely Purdue’s biggest strength. The Boilermaker punting game is fifth in the nation, averaging 42 yards per boot, while Waynelle Gravesande is a top punt returner and freshman Raheem Mostert is quickly emerging as an elite kickoff returner. Meanwhile, Illinois is second-to-last in the nation in kickoff returns, 112th in punt returns, and 107th in punting. Derek Dimke is a terrific kicker, hitting all seven of his field goal attempts, but that’s it.
Could Illinois be sulking? Last year it came off an emotional loss to Michigan with a disastrous loss to Minnesota. The Illini weren’t as good as the record over the first half of the season, needing to hang on to beat Western Michigan and Northwestern at home. Purdue might be better than those two, and it’s starting to do some decent things on defense since the Notre Dame disaster.
What To Watch Out For: It’s been a long, strange trip for Purdue senior receiver Justin Siller, a very talented, very versatile option who brings 6-4, 223-pound size and good experience to an offense that needs playmakers. Like seemingly every other good Purdue offensive player, Siller got hurt last year with a bad ankle injury that limited him to just five games and 12 catches for 104 yards with a score, but it was a plus that he was simply back with the program after being booted a few years ago for academic problems. Originally a quarterback, then a running back, then a receiver, he’s a jack-of-all-trades who can be used in a variety of ways, but this year he’s been a receiver only with a team-leading 25 catches for 239 yards. Now he has to start getting in the end zone and he has to use his size and skills to become more of a big-play threat.
Illinois linebacker Jonathan Brown will be forever known for his classic YouTube store-punching moment against Northwestern, but he responded from his one game suspension to destroy Ohio State with 17 tackles with a sack after making 11 stops against the Wildcats. At 6-1 and 235 pounds he has nice size with phenomenal strength, and now he’s putting it all together.
What Will Happen: Purdue will come up with its best game of the year. The Illinois offense will be too mediocre in key moments and the Boilermaker attack will get a nice blend of balance between the passing of Caleb TerBush, who’ll be much stronger coming off an awful game against Penn State, and the running of the 1-2 punch of Ralph Bolden and Akeem Shavers. Illinois is better, but an unfocused letdown effort, while settling for too many field goals instead of touchdowns, will
mean a second straight tough loss.
CFN Prediction: Purdue 27 … Illinois 23
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Illinois -5.5 O/U: 47
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