WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WCIA) — Illinois kept up with Purdue (2-3; 1-1) in the first half before the Boilermakers dominated every phase of the game after the break to take a 44-19 win in the Illini’s (2-3; 0-2) Big Ten West opener.
The mentee beats the mentor keeping the cannon trophy in West Lafayette for the fourth straight year. Ryan Walters had Purdue ready to play against Illinois, as the former Illini defensive coordinator wins his first Big Ten game against his former boss Bret Bielema, who has still yet to beat Purdue at Illinois.
“I told them in there that’s obviously embarrassing,” Bielema said after the game. “However you want to say it, for me as a head coach, for you as a player, that collapse in the second half just can’t be tolerated.”
Illinois started out on the right foot, driving into the redzone on the first drive before settling for a field goal. Defensive coordinator Aaron Henry’s defense stalled the Boilermakers, forcing a punt on the ensuing drive. But after punting back to the Illini, Luke Altmyer was strip sacked near the endzone. Purdue’s Malik Langham fell on the ball to take the 6-3 lead.
Illinois was able to find the endzone later in the second quarter, set up by Altmyer hitting Isaiah Williams for a long gain. The senior receiver had six catches for 113 yards. Josh McCray finished the drive with a touchdown plunge, as the sophomore went for 35 yards as the lead back with Reggie Love III missing the game. Atwood native Kaden Feagin led the rushing attack, going for 85 yards on 11 carries.
Up three at the break, the Boilermakers scored 21 third quarter points to blow the game open and never looked back. It’s a big moment for Walters to show progress, and a big missed opportunity for the Illini.
“I know everyone wants there to be a storyline and added emphasis and all those things but the reality is, where we were as a team, it didn’t matter who the opponent was,” Walters said. “We needed to get this game.”
“Bottom line you’ve got to make plays in this league,” Bielema said. “As coaches we’ve just got to do so much better.”
Offense was a big concern, especially on the line. Altmyer was under duress all day, getting sacked five times with the Boilermakers defense tacking on seven tackles for loss. Nine Illini penalties for 83 yards and 2-for-13 on third down only makes it worse.
“Not winning our 1-on-1 battles and not giving Luke enough time, I think we’re all strong enough to get the job done we’ve just got to work on the technique stuff,” tackle Isaiah Adams said.
“We talk about complimentary football a lot and if the offense goes out and has a drive that we don’t consider successful,” linebacker Dylan Rosiek said. “We’ve got to go out and put the fire out and do something to get the momentum back and I don’t think we did that this week.”
It is a short week to rebound for the Illini, as Bielema’s squad hosts Nebraska on Friday, Oct. 6 at 7 p.m. on Fox Sports 1.