Purdue, Illinois battling to end Big Ten losing streaks
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) An overtime victory in 2016 at Illinois allowed Purdue to stay out of last place in the Big Ten Conference.
The Boilermakers (3-5, 1-4 Big Ten) are hoping for a similar result Saturday with a visit from Illinois (2-6, 0-5).
For Purdue coach Jeff Brohm, three straight losses - an eight-point loss at Wisconsin, a two-point loss at Rutgers and a one-point loss to Nebraska - have him eager to win for the first time since Oct. 8 against Minnesota.
''When you lose close games, it's disappointing and frustrating,'' he said. ''You have to figure out what your players do best and put them in position to win. We're not there yet. I have been in these positions before. We can't just say, `Here we go again.'''
Illinois has lost six straight games, ranks last in the Big Ten in scoring, last in rushing offense and last in rushing defense as the Illini have played a lot of underclassmen.
Like Purdue with David Blough and Elijah Sindelar, Illinois has played two quarterback in Jeff George Jr. and Cam Thomas.
''In their situation, one guy is more of a runner, and the other is a passer,'' Brohm said. ''They have been in some tight games, and others have not come out the way they wanted. We have been in the same situation. But we know Illinois will come out hungry and ready to play.''
Illinois coach Lovie Smith is just as eager to find a win as the end of the season nears. The Illini have played better of late, losing 24-10 at home to No. 4 Wisconsin on Saturday a week after losing by a touchdown to Minnesota.
''We improved in a lot of areas in the Wisconsin game. But it was not good enough. Guys did a lot good defensively. You move on,'' Smith said. ''This is a good Purdue team. They beat us in a tough one last year. Their quarterback is back, as are a lot of their skilled defensive guys. They have good personnel, but it has been too long since our guys got a win.''
Other things to watch for when Purdue hosts Illinois in a series in which the road team has won the past three games:
Illinois will likely stick with its two-QB system. At least for this week, junior quarterback Blough has beaten out Sindelar for the starting job for the Boilermakers.
''I like the progress of both of our quarterbacks,'' Brohm said. ''With Davjd running the offense right now, David gives us a slightly better chance to succeed.''
Brohm was a quarterback at Tampa Bay when Smith was a member of the Buccaneers staff.
''He is a terrific person,'' Brohm said. ''He stands for the right things and came up in the Tony Dungy coaching tree. He not only is a terrific coach, he is a better person. He has the same style as Tony Dungy.''
FINISHING THE JOB
Purdue squandered a 12-point, fourth-quarter lead to Nebraska and that bothered Blough.
''It's about finishing,'' Blough said. ''It's about being tough and physical - all the things coach Brohm preaches and how to win. What it takes on offense is being able to run the ball when they know it is coming. The Nebraska loss ranks up there pretty high, especially as an offense when we were in position to finish, and we didn't. It was small things, missed opportunities. Yeah, it stings.''
Purdue limited the Cornhuskers to just 40 yards rushing last week and the Boilermakers see that as a key against Illinois.
''''I was ready to win the Nebraska game,'' linebacker Markus Bailey said. ''I think our defense was ready to win. We've got to make those late-game plays.''
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