O’Connell rallies Boilermakers late to get past Illini 13-9

Sep 25, 2021, 4:08 AM | Updated: 5:21 pm

Illinois running back Josh McCray (0) carries the ball during the third quarter of an NCAA college football game against Purdue Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in West Lafayette, Ind. (Nikos Frazier/Journal & Courier via AP)

(0)

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) — Purdue needed backup quarterback Aidan O’Connell to deliver in a pinch Saturday.

He may have saved their bowl hopes.

After relieving Jack Plummer in the third quarter and throwing interceptions on his first two series, the fifth-year senior capped a 94-yard scoring march drive with a 14-yard scoring toss to T.J. Sheffield for the game’s only touchdown and a 13-9 victory over Illinois.

“We just felt like because we became one-dimensional, we think Aidan is our most accurate thrower and that’s not a knock on Jack,” Purdue coach Jeff Brohm said. “He stands in there. he’s poised, he played to the end and he helped us find a way to win.”

It sure wasn’t easy under the circumstances.

The Boilermakers (3-1, 1-0 Big Ten) started the day without their best receiver, their top two running backs and lost starting tight end Payne Durham in the first half after a jarring hit knocked his helmet loose.

After leading Purdue to field goals on its first two series, Plummer couldn’t muster another score, so Brohm changed quarterbacks and O’Connell made the game-turning play for the touchdown with 5:44 left in the game.

Purdue’s defense clinched the victory by forcing a turnover on downs in its own red zone.

Illinois (1-4, 1-2) has lost four straight since a season-opening win over Nebraska.

But it was coach Bret Bielema’s decision to punt on fourth-and-2 from the Boilermakers’ 34-yard line that drew questions, especially after Jeff McCort made three field goals including the tie-breaker to give Illinois a 9-6 lead early in the fourth quarter.

“I’m trying to win a game, not lose a game and I know that sounds silly because we just lost it,” Bielema said after making a similar decision for the second straight week and losing both. “But it’s the decision I’d make 100 times over to go for it –ball on the 5, the defense has been playing that way the whole way. I’d do it 100 times over.”

THE TAKEAWAY

Illinois: Bielema built his reputation on a powerful ground game. In his first season at Illinois, he’s clearly trying to follow a similar script. Saturday’s strong ground game helped Illinois play keep away but it didn’t result in a victory.

Purdue: Without David Bell (concussion) and their top two running backs, the Boilermakers’ offense was depleted of playmakers and it showed. Defensively, they were tough and fast. But without more scoring punch, Purdue will struggle to win many more games.

INJURY REPORT

Illinois: After running back Chase Brown and cornerback defensive back Devon Witherspoon started the game on the bench, the Illini scratched their top defensive player, linebacker Jake Hansen, following warmups. All three have undisclosed injuries. The Illini also nearly lost starting safety Sidney Brown 5:02 into the game on a targeting call but the penalty was overturned by a replay review.

Purdue: Receivers David Bell (concussion) and Mershawn Rice (foot), cornerback Cory Trice (ankle) and running back King Doerue, Zander Horvath’s replacement, did not dress. Doerue sat out because of a non-COVID-19 health condition. The Boilermakers also lost tight end Payne Durham and defensive linemen Branson Deen and DaMarcus Mitchell in the first half.

STAT PACK

Illinois: Josh McCray had 24 carries for 156 yards and his first career 100-yard game in his first start. … Brandon Peters was 14 of 26 with 100 yards and one fumble. … Converted receiver Isaiah Williams led the Illini with four receptions for 21 yards. … Illinois fell to 45-46-6 in the all-time series with Purdue.

Purdue: Plummer was 12 of 21 with 95 yards before he was pulled in the third quarter. O’Connell was 12 of 19 with 182 yards. … The Boilermakers gained 1.5 yards per carry. … Milton Wright caught seven passes for 88 yards, Sheffield had four receptions for 44 yards and Abdur-Rahmaan Yasseen had three catches for 77 yards — his first catches this season.

UP NEXT

Illinois: Welcomes Charlotte to Champaign next Saturday.

Purdue: Faces Minnesota in its second straight home game next Saturday.

___

More AP college football: https://apnews.com/Collegefootball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25. Sign up for the AP’s college football newsletter: https://apnews.com/cfbtop25.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - Dallas Stars' Jason Robertson skates during the third period of an NHL hockey game against t...
Associated Press

Stars sign 41-goal scorer Robertson to $31M, 4-year deal

FRISCO, Texas (AP) — Jason Robertson has signed a $31 million, four-year contract with the Dallas Stars after the young 40-goal scorer missed the first two weeks of training camp. The Stars announced the deal late Wednesday night, after their exhibition game in Denver, only a week before the regular season opener Oct. 13 at […]
22 hours ago
The ski slopes are almost devoid of snow at the Tūroa ski field, on Mt. Ruapehu, New Zealand on Se...
Associated Press

Missing snow puts famed New Zealand ski areas on precipice

TUROA SKI AREA, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealand’s Turoa ski area is usually a white wonderland at this time of year, its deep snowpack supporting its famed spring skiing. This season, it’s largely a barren moonscape, with tiny patches of snow poking out between vast fields of jagged volcanic boulders. The ski area was […]
22 hours ago
FILE - Kansas City Royals pitching coach Cal Eldred in the seventh inning of a baseball game, May 1...
Associated Press

Royals fire manager Mike Matheny after 65-97 end to season

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Manager Mike Matheny and pitching coach Cal Eldred were fired by the Kansas Cty Royals on Wednesday night, shortly after the struggling franchise finished the season 65-97 with a listless 9-2 loss to the Cleveland Guardians. The Royals had exercised their option on Matheny’s contract for 2023 during spring training, […]
22 hours ago
Philadelphia 76ers' James Harden goes up for a dunk during the first half of a preseason NBA basket...
Associated Press

Embiid, Harden begin as 76ers top Cavs in Mitchell’s debut

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Joel Embiid and James Harden were done with their preseason debuts long before Montrezl Harrell scored the go-ahead basket with 26 seconds left, and the Philadelphia 76ers beat Cleveland 113-112 on Wednesday night in Donovan Mitchell’s first game with the Cavaliers. Embiid had 12 points and six rebounds in 18 minutes before […]
22 hours ago
Central Florida coach Gus Malzahn, left, and SMU coach Rhett Lashlee talk before an NCAA college fo...
Associated Press

UCF scores 31 unanswered points, beats SMU in AAC opener

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — John Rhys Plumlee threw for 316 yards and two touchdowns, both coming in the second half to Ryan O’Keefe, and UCF scored 31 unanswered points to beat SMU 41-19 on Wednesday night in a game postponed because of tropical weather. UCF trailed 13-10 at halftime before scoring four touchdowns in the […]
22 hours ago
New York Mets' Mark Vientos celebrates with James McCann (33) after they scored on a three-run home...
Associated Press

Mets prep for playoffs with 9-2 rout of Nationals

NEW YORK (AP) — After wrapping up a 101-win season with an easy romp, the New York Mets know their next challenge will be much tougher. Francisco Lindor and the Mets geared up for the playoffs with a 9-2 rout of the Washington Nationals on Wednesday, completing a fantastic regular season with the second-most victories […]
22 hours ago
O’Connell rallies Boilermakers late to get past Illini 13-9