What looked like a pivotal game for both Purdue and Illinois could turn out to be just that.
If so, the Boilers will be a team to watch in the Leaders division during the second half of the season. The Fighting Illini, meanwhile, could be headed for very bad things after winning their first six games, their best start since 1951.
Purdue dominated Illinois for the first three quarters before holding on in the fourth to win 21-14. The 23rd-ranked Illini will depart the BCS standings and the national polls Sunday.
After scoring three quick touchdowns in the first half, Purdue turned to its defense to seal the win. Illinois didn't get in the red zone until 8:36 remained in the game and got on the scoreboard for the first time moments later. As was the case last week against Ohio State, Illinois found its offensive rhythm far too late in the game.
The Illini entered the game ranked seventh nationally in third-down conversion percentage (53.1), but Purdue prevented them from moving the chains with its pressuring defense (Illinois converted just 6 of 17 attempts). Led by defensive tackle Kawann Short, who had a monster game, the Boilers recorded five sacks and made life miserable for Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase.
Purdue also found its quarterback in junior Caleb TerBush, who fired two first-half touchdown passes and completed 16 of 25 passes. Robert Marve didn't see any action, and it seems like the Boilers will move forward with TerBush as their man under center. Although Purdue didn't do much offensively in the second half, coordinator Gary Nord had a creative game plan against a talented Illinois defense today.
After scoring 79 points in its first two Big Ten games, the Illini have managed just 21 in their past two. Scheelhaase hasn't been nearly as sharp as he was earlier in the season, and while A.J. Jenkins recorded eight catches, he didn't reach the end zone. Things only get tougher next week for Ron Zook's squad, which visits Happy Valley and faces arguably the Big Ten's best defense in Penn State.