Illini waste McCray's big day, defensive effort in 13-9 loss at Purdue

By IlliniGuys.com staff

September 25, 2021

West Lafayette, IN -- For the second week in a row, the Illinois defense stepped up and kept their opponent in check.  But for the second straight game, the Illini failed to match their scoring output from earlier in the season and come up short in their quest for a win.

Purdue (3-1, 1-0) scored its lone touchdown when Aiden O'Donnell connected with T.J. Sheffield with 5:44 left in the 4th quarter and that was enough to carve out a 13-9 victory over visiting Illinois (1-4, 1-2).  The score spoiled an otherwise outstanding effort by the Illini defense, which intercepted two O'Donnell passes and forced Purdue to punt five times in the game.

Freshman Josh McCray turned in the best performance of his young career.  The Enterprise, Alabama product was the focal point of the Illinois offense for the first time and he delivered, rushing for a career-best 156 yards on 24 carries.  But the Illini passing game was anemic all afternoon.  Senior Brandon Peters completed 14 of 26 passes for just 100 yards as the Illini couldn't get a vertical passing attack established, including three straight incomplete passes on their final series inside the Purdue 20-yard line late in the game when Illinois needed a touchdown.

The Illini have now lost four games in a row, but they've done so in contrasting fashion.  After allowing 79 points combined in losses to UTSA and Virginia, the Illinois defense has been much stingier in giving up just 33 points to Maryland and Purdue.  But the Illinois offensive output has also fallen off.  The Illini averaged 30 points per game in their first two contests this season, but have managed an average of just 14 points in their last games.

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