Illinois follows a familiar script in loss to Purdue

WEST LAFAYETTE, IN - NOVEMBER 04: Illinois Fighting Illini running back Kendrick Foster (22) looks to block for Illinois Fighting Illini quarterback Cam Thomas (10) during the Big Ten Conference game between the Illinois Fighting Illini and the Purdue Boilermakers on November 4, 2017, at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – As their loss total grows from the end of October to November, so does the amount of true freshman players in the lineup.

Twenty-two of them saw the field before the Illini even stepped foot onto Ross Ade Stadium on Saturday for their sixth Big Ten contest of the season. It’s part of the massive rebuild for the program under head coach Lovie Smith, who is coaching his second season in Champaign more like the first for most coaches in a new program.

Today was another first as Cam Thomas became the 16th first year starter for the Illini, getting the snaps first at quarterback against Purdue.

He along with Jeff George Jr and a stout defense were able to keep the contest with the Boilermakers close for about 35 minutes of the game. But like a few other times in the Big Ten, that was about it.

Purdue took a lead just before the half, added to it in the third, then blew the game open in the fourth quarter in route to a 29-10 victory that hands Illinois their sixth-straight defeat.

Thomas took the bulk of the snaps, completing 10-of-20 passes for 159 yards while also rushing for 30 yards, but offense was once again hard to come by for the Illini. They were held to 250 total yards on the game and didn’t score in the second half, and eventually the Boilermakers were able to push ahead.

Even with Purdue starter David Blough knocked out of the game with a severe lower leg injury, the Illini defense couldn’t hold off the Boilers. Backup quarterback Elijah Sindelar threw a touchdown pass to Cole Herdman on the next play to make it 22-10 after a two-point conversion try failed. Following a George interception, Purdue went 53-yard and capped it with a Richie Worship TD to make it a 19-point lead and another long day for the rebuilding Illini.