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Illini end 20-game Big Ten skid, beat Purdue

Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase left throws pass as offensive lineman Corey Lewis (70) blocks Purdue defensive end Evan Panfil (95)

Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase, left, throws a pass as offensive lineman Corey Lewis (70) blocks Purdue defensive end Evan Panfil (95) in the first half of an NCAA college football game in West Lafayette, Ind., Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013. (AP Photo/R Brent Smith)

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Updated: November 23, 2013 4:10PM

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — No need for anyone to point out the obvious.

This victory for Illinois — the first in 21 Big Ten games, the last 15 under beleaguered coach Tim Beckman — isn’t about Purdue. The Boilermakers are truly terrible, but so what?

On a day when the Illini lost the turnover battle 4-1, gave up yet another long touchdown run and failed to score a touchdown themselves after the opening play of the second quarter, they won.

They just plain won.

They won 20-16, and such a fitting number of points for the Illini to have scored. To have lost 20 consecutive conference games was excruciating for all involved. This is where that ends.

It was a struggle for fifth-year senior quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase, who threw a couple of bad interceptions and held the ball for too long on several plays. Again, so what?

Scheelhaase gets to enjoy a much-deserved W. His hookups with Steve Hull, who had 10 catches for 169 yards and two touchdowns, will be remembered by both players for a long time.

They were roommates as freshmen. Hull was a groomsman in Scheelhaase’s offseason wedding. They’ve lost a whole lot of games together. Won a handful, too.

The Illini (4-7, 1-6 Big Ten) aren’t going bowling. Under Beckman, some would say they aren’t going anywhere.

But Beckman’s much-maligned defense stopped the Boilermakers (1-10, 0-7) on their final 10 possessions. Purdue took a 14-7 lead in the first quarter, and that was it.

If the goal was improvement this season, well, this team has accomplished that. It has been a rough go, but it was so much worse a day ago.


Twitter: @slgreenberg

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