CHAMPAIGN, Ill (WCCU/WICS/WRSP) - Illinois was looking to get back on track in its home opener against Purdue, but the Illini would be behind before the opening kick.
Starting quarterback Brandon Peters declared out following a positive test for COVID-19. Tight end Griffin Moore also tested positive, while 12 other Illinois players were out today due to contact tracing precautions.
That led to Matt Robinson making his third career start at quarterback. The redshirt sophomore would leave the game due to injury after the first possession, putting the ball in the hands of fourth string quarterback Coran Taylor.
The Peoria native would struggle in the early goings, but would lead scoring drives capped off by Mike Epstein's first touchdown of the season, and a field goal by Danville native Caleb Griffin, which put Illinois down 17-10 heading to the third quarter.
The Illini defense forced a goal line fumble on the opening possession, but Taylor threw his second interception of the game to Cam Allen. The Boilermakers would capitalize as Aiden O'Connell found David Bell for the touchdown to extend the Purdue lead to 24-10. Shortly after, the Illini would be pinned on the goal line again, as Taylor would have another turnover, fumbling the ball which Purdues Jaylon Graham recovered in the endzone to go up 31-10.
Taylor and the Illini would start the comeback effort in the fourth quarter, with the quarterback throwing his first career touchdown pass to Daniel Imatorbhebhe. The 28 yard score was also the first touchdown in the orange and blue for the USC transfer.
On the ensuing possession, defensive lineman Owen Carney Jr. continued to wreak havoc, getting his third sack of the game to stall the Purdue drive. Taylor would lead another scoring drive, finding Brian Hightower for the touchdown catch to bring Illinois within a score down 31-24.
Purdue would convert a crucial third and long on the next drive thanks to a one-handed grab by David Bell that sealed the win for the Boilermakers who improved to 2-0 on the season.
Illinois would fall to 0-2 with the loss and will return to Memorial Stadium next Saturday to host Minnesota.