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Purdue Wins Big Ten Opener Against Illinois

Casey Abbett


A depleted Purdue football team got by Illinois with its only touchdown in the waning minutes in a 13-9 win at Ross-Ade Stadium, which allowed the Boilermakers to keep the Cannon Trophy.  

Sophomore wide receiver TJ Sheffield caught a 14-yard pass at the 5:44 mark of the fourth quarter to give the Boilers (3-1) a solid start in their Big Ten opener over the Fighting Illini (1-4) Saturday afternoon.

“Very happy for our team, it was a big win for us,” said coach Jeff Brohm after the game, “We needed a win to get this Big Ten season started off right.”

With the win, Purdue took a 46-45 lead over Illinois in the all-time series.

Purdue entered the game with a glaring lack of playmakers on offense. Wide receiver David Bell, a junior from Indianapolis, sat out after leaving the game one week earlier against Notre Dame. The Boilers were also without their top two running backs, Zander Horvath and King Dorue. On top of that, tight end Payne Durham, the second most targeted receiver behind Bell, left the game in the first half with a head injury.

Junior Milton Wright had a total of five receptions for 38 yards in limited play during three games prior to playing Illinois.  But once he was pressed into action because of injuries, Wright ended up leading the Boilers with seven catches for 88 yards. Plus, redshirt freshman Abdur-Rahmaan Yaseen caught his first career pass for 43 yards and finished the game with 77 yards in receptions. 

“I am probably as proud of Abdur as anybody,” said Brohm. “I know (this game is) something that he can build upon and be a difference maker for us.”

For the second straight game, Purdue made a change at quarterback midway through the game, switching from starter Jack Plummer to backup Aiden O’Connell. 

“When we have some simple throws and completions we have to hit them, and (Plummer) was just a little off,” said Brohm.

Plummer finished the game with 12 completions on 21 attempts for 95 yards.

Brohm added, “We just felt that because we became one dimensional, we think that (O’Connell) is our most accurate passer.” 

Purdue’s defense once again showed improvement over last year’s defensive unit by preventing the Illini from scoring any touchdowns.  With field goals in the second, third and fourth quarter, the Illini were trying to hold on until Sheffield’s touchdown from O’Connell.  Since the season opener against Oregon State, the Purdue defense has allowed only six touchdowns.

 In addition against the Illini, Purdue netted two sacks and nine tackles for a loss of 41 yards. 

The Boilers continue Big Ten play next Saturday when they welcome the Golden Gophers of Minnesota. Kickoff is at noon.

Casey Abbett is a senior at Purdue from LaCrosse, Indiana, and has been been interning as a sports reporter for WBAA since his freshman year.