CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – Purdue found its offense and kept its bowl hopes with its 20-17 victory at Illinois.
The Boilers (5-6) need a victory next Saturday over Indiana to become bowl eligible for the season straight season.
Purdue overcame a sluggish first quarter to win its second straight game. Tailbacks Ralph Bolden (93 yards) and Akeem Shavers (99 yards) sparked the running game.
Quarterback Robert Marve was 18-for-26 for 173 yards and a touchdown.
Illinois (2-9) was led by quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase’s 22-for-38, 160-yard effort.
Purdue forced two turnovers in the first quarter and got nothing out of them. It had just eight total yards in nine plays in the quarter.
The Boilers picked up the offensive pace and got a 31-yard field goal from Sam McCartney for a 3-0 second quarter lead. It added a 29-yard field from McCartney to negate a 54-yarder from Illinois’ Taylor Zalewski.
Purdue forced another fumble in the second quarter and, again, failed to score. The result was a 6-3 halftime score. The Boilers totaled 156 yards on 36 plays. Marve was 13-for-17 for 79 yards.
Everything changed in one stunning third-quarter play. Marve rolled to his right, then threw back to his left to Akeem Hunt on a screen pass. The entire Illinois defense was fooled and Hunt bolted 63 yards for a touchdown to make it 13-3.
Illinois came back on Dami Ayoola’s 16-yard TD run to cut the lead to three.
Then Bolden, coming off his third ACL surgery, bolted for a 63-yard run. It would have been a 78-yard touchdown, but he began limping and went out of bounds at the Illinois’ 15-yard line. Two plays later, Hunt scored on a 6-yard run for a 20-10 score.
Scheelhaase scored on a 2-yard run to cap a 95-yard drive with 3:29 left to make it 20-17. The Boilers recovered the on-side kick to clinch the win.
Purdue offensive coordinator Gary Noord made the trip despite dealing with a severe back injury that kept him out of last week’s win at Iowa.