WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) — Purdue coach Ryan Walters never underestimated what his Boilermakers could do when they played clean, complementary football.
It just took 4 1/2 games for the fans to see it.
Hudson Card threw two touchdown passes, Devin Mockobee, Dylan Downing and Tyrone Tracy Jr. all had TD runs and Purdue used a 21-point third-quarter scoring flurry to pull away from Illinois 44-19 and give Walters his first home victory Saturday.
“I’m happy for our guys that they prepared the way they were supposed to,” said Walters, who spent the previous two seasons as the Fighting Illini defensive coordinator. “When I get back home tonight and think about what happened, I’m sure I’ll be smiling.”
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After all those early-season frustrations, all the turnovers, all the missed opportunities, the Boilermakers strung together their best half of the season — and perhaps their best four quarters — in the first of their two trophy games.
The result: Purdue (2-3, 1-1 Big Ten) snapped a two-game losing streak, improving to 1-3 at home while reclaiming The Cannon for the fourth consecutive year.
“We had a plan and we went out and executed it,” quarterback Hudson Card said. “When we do it right, the offense looks really good so we’ve got to build off what we did today and continue to get better.”
Illinois’ misery in this series continued as Bret Bielema lost for the third consecutive year in his tenure with the Illini (2-3, 0-2).
This time, things turned quickly in what was a strange and, at times, ugly contest.
Bielema won an early coach’s challenge, an overturned replay review led to a Purdue giveaway, Illinois blocked two kicks and even the scoreboard stopped working late in the first half.
Still, it came down to the three TDs — Card’s 28-yard TD pass to Garrett Miller on the first possession of the second half, Mockobee’s 3-yard scoring run late in the third quarter and Card’s 10-yard TD pass to Deion Burks following a fourth-down stop.
And just like that, a three-point halftime lead ballooned to 24. The Illini never got close again.
“Obviously, we gave up the scoop and score in the first half and it was an utter collapse in the second half,” Bielema said. “It’s on my shoulders. We had a tight end bust (on Miller’s score) and from that point forward it really unraveled.”
Card wound up 18 of 26 with 217 yards. Tyrone Tracy Jr. ran 21 times for 112 yards and scored the day’s final touchdown. Burks had five receptions for 83 yards.
Altmyer finished 16 of 25 with 202 yards and one TD. Isaiah Williams caught six passes for 113 yards. Josh McCray ran for one TD..
Illinois: Illinois simply had too many miscues — nine penalties, five sacks allowed, three fumbles and 1 of 13 on third down — to stay in this one. That combination is always a recipe for disaster, and the losses will continue if the Illini can’t find some fixes fast.
Purdue: Walters waited five weeks to get his first home win, but this will be a memorable moment for him. The goal now is to start building off the momentum of this game, replicating what they did on offense and defense and turning their season around.
The scoreboard clock stopped working with 1:07 left in the first half, forcing the refs to announce the time remaining between each snap taken until halftime. The play clock wasn’t working, either, and neither team’s late field goal appeared on the scoreboard until the halftime festivities nearly ended. But Purdue got the clocks and scoreboard up and running for the entire second half.
Illinois: It was a rough day for the Illini, who played without leading rusher Reggie Love III (ankle) and lost two offensive lineman Josh Gesky (right knee and right ankle) and Zy Crisler (right ankle) in the third quarter. Defensive lineman Denzel Daxon left briefly in the first half and DT Jer’Zhan Newton left twice, the second time with a shoulder injury before returning in the second half.
Purdue: Tight end Max Klare needed help to leave the field in the third quarter with what appeared to be a lower body injury. He did not return. Tracy Jr., Burks and Miller all left for short stints in the first half but each finished the game.
Illinois: Heads home to take on Nebraska on Friday night.
Purdue: Visits Iowa next Saturday.
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