Illini Choke With Game On The Line, Purdue Prevails In OT

Illini quarterback Chayce Crouch.

Illini quarterback Chayce Crouch looks to pass against Purdue during Saturday's game at Memorial Stadiuim.

Vashoune Russell / Illinois Public Media

The Illini football team lost to Purdue 34-31 Saturday afternoon, in overtime.

Boiler head coach Darrell Hazell called three successive timeouts to ice Illini kicker Chase McLaughlin, who'd been perfect on the year to that point.

McLaughlin's would-be game-winning field goal bounced off the right upright.

The 41-yard kick came from the left hash mark as time expired. Asked whether McLughlin prefers to kick from the left hash, Illini coach Lovie Smith sidestepped the suggestion that his staff should have used a penultimate running play to move the ball toward the center of the field.

“Doesn’t really matter what you prefer,” said Smith. “If you have an opportunity to do that. We had to hit that. He’s done a great job. He needs to be able to hit that one.”

Smith attributed the loss to mental mistakes by his team, whether big plays or penalties. For example, Defensive End Carroll Phillips was ejected in the fourth quarter for targeting, a play which allowed Purdue a new set of downs on its crucial game-tying drive.

 “Every loss hurts,” said Smith, “but some do hurt a little bit more than others. And this is one that hurts a little bit more. We’re not set up to give up a lot of big plays like that. We have some players that need to step up and play the way they’re capable of playing. It’s as simple as that. I mean, all of those penalties really hurt us, too. We have to have more discipline than that.”

Quarterback Chayce Crouch, who replaced injured starter Wes Lunt in the first half, fumbled the ball on Illinois' only overtime series, allowing Purdue a risk-free field goal for the win.

Crouch ran for 137 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries, and completed 10 of 14 passes for 142 yards. But his crunch-time turnover negated an otherwise excellent performance.

“I got hit and had poor ball security and fumbled the ball,” said Crouch. “About my play, I don’t feel well. We lost the game. Any time you lose, you can play better.”

Brian Lankford-Johnson led Purdue with 127 rushing yards and a touchdown. Quarterback David Blough completed 22 of 35 passes for 220 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.

Pudue improves to 3-2 overall and 1-1 in the Big Ten. Illinois drops to 1-4 on the year, 0-2 in conference, ahead of next week's 11 a.m. start at Rutgers.

Story source: WILL