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Aidan O’Connell, Purdue edge Illinois in defensive affair

Sep 25, 2021; West Lafayette, Indiana, USA;  Purdue Boilermakers running back Dylan Downing (38) evades a tackle against Illinois Fighting Illini linebacker Tarique Barnes (44) during the first quarter at Ross-Ade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 25, 2021; West Lafayette, Indiana, USA; Purdue Boilermakers running back Dylan Downing (38) evades a tackle against Illinois Fighting Illini linebacker Tarique Barnes (44) during the first quarter at Ross-Ade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Aidan O’Connell went 12-of-19 passing for 182 yards and a touchdown to help Purdue earn a 13-9 home win over Illinois in a Big 10 contest that was a defensive struggle on Saturday.

With Purdue trailing 9-6 in the fourth quarter, O’Connell hit TJ Sheffield for a 14-yard touchdown with 5:44 remaining for what turned out to be the game-winning points.

The score capped off a 10-play, 94-yard drive.

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In the final minute, Illinois drove down to the Purdue 19-yard line, but four straight incompletions turned the ball over on downs and ended the game.

Milton Wright caught seven passes for 88 yards for Purdue (3-1, 1-0 Big Ten).

Josh McCray rushed for 156 yards on 24 carries and Brandon Peters went 14-of-26 passing for 100 yards in defeat for Illinois (1-4, 1-2).

Purdue took the opening kickoff and marched 69 yards in 15 plays, taking a 3-0 lead with 8:31 left in the first quarter on a 23-yard field goal by Mitchell Fineran.

The Boilermakers took a 6-0 lead with 3:34 left in the first quarter on a 30-yard field goal by Fineran.

Illinois got on the scoreboard with 2:24 remaining in the second quarter, cutting the Purdue lead to 6-3 on a 51-yard field goal by James McCourt.

With 8:18 remaining in the third quarter, Illinois mounted a 13-play, 58-yard drive and tied the game at 6-6 on a 35-yard field goal by McCourt.

Purdue mounted a drive and had a first-and-goal at the Illinois 4-yard line, but on second down, O’Connell had a pass tipped and intercepted in the end zone by Kerby Joseph of Illinois.

The Fighting Illini took advantage of the turnover, driving down the field and taking a 9-6 lead with 14:51 remaining in the game on a 45-yard field goal by McCourt.

–Field Level Media