Illinois falls to Purdue, losing streak at eight
BY HERB GOULD firstname.lastname@example.org November 17, 2012 6:12PM
Coach Tim Beckman is 0-7 in the Big Ten in his first season at Illinois. The Illini have lost eight in a row. | AP
Updated: December 19, 2012 3:59PM
CHAMPAIGN — Illinois took a road less traveled on Saturday.
In the first quarter, when it gained 78 yards and held Purdue to eight, it looked like it might be on to something.
In the end, though, the Illini reached the same unsatisfying destination.
They lost 20-17 to the Boilermakers. It was their 13th consecutive Big Ten loss and their eighth straight defeat this season — and it hurt just as much as all those other losses.
‘‘All the seniors played their hearts out and left it all on the field; it’s a really bad feeling,’’ senior defensive end Michael Buchanan said after his last game at Memorial Stadium.
The Boilermakers (5-6, 2-5), who won for the second straight week, can become bowl-eligible by winning their finale next Saturday at home against Indiana. Illinois (2-9, 0-7) travels to Northwestern, where it will take one last shot at giving new coach Tim Beckman his first Big Ten victory.
‘‘I just want to start off by saying how disappointing it is to stand up here with a loss,’’ Beckman said. ‘‘We turned the ball over too much again. And the big plays hurt our defense. There were  yards on two plays, but that’s the game of football. You never know when big plays are going to happen, but you have to be ready for them.’’
It’s true. Far from seizing this game by the throat, Purdue pretty much blundered its way to victory — with Illinois’ blunders. The Illini had three turnovers, Purdue none. Purdue scored its first touchdown on a 63-yard screen pass and set up its second TD with a 63-yard run. Illinois had no play longer than 22 yards.
Illinois fumbled six times, losing three of them. Receiver Ryan Lankford lost the ball on Illinois’ first two drives and did not play again because of an ankle injury. Even though Purdue got no points off the turnovers, the giveaways stopped the Illini in their tracks.
‘‘Hold on to the football,’’ Beckman said. ‘‘That has nothing to do with your ankle. [Turning it over] deflates you. It’s a simple game. When you don’t turn over the ball, you seem to win a lot of games.’’
Beckman howled at the officials on the third turnover, one of those painful deals where quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase lost the ball when his arm was bumped as he attempted to pass.
Leading 6-3 in the third quarter, Purdue took charge by turning that screen pass into the long touchdown for a 13-3 lead. When Illinois answered with a 16-yard TD run from freshman Dami Ayoola, Purdue answered with a 63-yard run by Ralph Bolden that set up Akeem Shavers’ six-yard TD, another play that caught Illinois’ defense flat-footed.
‘‘Two big plays that were catastrophic,’’ defensive coordinator Tim Banks said.
Still, the Illini vowed to show up in Evanston and try to get it right against Northwestern.
‘‘Nobody’s out there quitting,’’ senior cornerback Terry Hawthorne said. ‘‘Everybody’s fighting to the end.’’
‘‘Words,’’ junior receiver Darius Millines said, ‘‘can’t even explain how bad I want to win.’’