After good starts to the season, the Purdue Boilermakers (3-5, 1-4 BIG 10) and The Fighting Illini (2-6, 0-5 BIG 10) look to gain some momentum in Saturday’s contest in West Lafayette. The Cannon Trophy will also be on the line 11:00 AM CST on the Big Ten Network.
This game marks the 93rd meeting between the schools. The Fighting Illini hold a small margin 44-42-6. Saturday also will be the 65th battle for the Cannon Trophy that dates back to 1943. Purdue leads the series 34-29-2.
For the Illini, they need improved quarterback play. Jeff George Jr. has been inconsistent at best going 79-149 for 1,001 yards with four touchdowns and seven interceptions. The Illini have had three different QBs under center, and none of them have had much success. Chayce Crouch was benched early in the season and hasn’t played since then. Freshman QB Cam Thomas has had more success running the ball than passing. Thomas is just 4-15 for 77 yards, no touchdowns in the air and three interceptions. Crouch is 41-77 for 427 yards with a touchdown and four interceptions.
Purdue could have some success running the ball in this one as the Illini are ranked 108th in FBS in rushing defense. D.J. Knox has been the starter since Tario Fuller went down with an injury several weeks ago. Knox has 50 carries for 302 yards. The Illini are giving up 205 yards per game on the ground.
David Blough played the entire game last week in a heartbreaking one-point loss to Nebraska. He has slightly better numbers than Elijah Sindelar. Blough is 86-133 for 909 yards with nine touchdowns and four interceptions. Meanwhile, Sindelar is 78-148 for 907 yards with six touchdowns and five interceptions.
The Fighting Illini will look to create turnovers in the game. They enter the game having forced 13 on the year which leads the nation in forced fumbles per game at 1.83. Defensive backs Stanley Green and Patrick Nelson, as well as defensive linemen James Crawford, all have two forced fumbles for the Illini.
Part of the growing pains for the Illini this year is their lack of experience. They have started 15 true freshmen this year, more than any team in the nation. Injuries have not been kind to the Illini especially the running back core.
Both teams are trying to stay out of the basement of the BIG 10 West.