For the second time in as many weeks, Illinois snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

Okay, let’s be honest. It’s gone on longer than the last 2 weeks. The difference now is it’s with a new coach.

Last week, it was Maryland that pulled off the comeback victory in Champaign. This time, it was Purdue in West Lafayette in a battle of field goals.

It looked like the race to 4 field goals until the Boilermakers scored the only touchdown of the game with 5:44 remaining to come out on top, 13-6. Their 10-play, 94-yard drive followed Illinois coach Bret Bielema’s puzzling decision to punt on 4th-and-2 from the Purdue 34-yard line.

Wait a minute. We’ve seen this movie before. Against Maryland last week, Bielema opted to punt from the Maryland 40-yard line. The result? A Terps’ touchdown drive.

So this is 2 weeks in a row that Bielema has opted to punt instead of going for it on 4th-and-short in enemy territory. The coach addressed the decision after the game, saying he’d make the same call “100 times over.”

“We had just missed a [54-yard field goal] and the ball was really in the same position,” Bielema said. ” We were going the opposite direction and [the wind] was whirling around. … I wasn’t going to go 4th-and-2 and if we didn’t convert, turn the ball over and give it to them at the [34-yard line] with huge momentum down by 3.”

Look, we know Illinois isn’t going to compete for a B1G title this season. The talent’s just not there. So why not be aggressive, especially in a conference game?

Then again, who knows if Illinois would’ve ended up finding the end zone on the drive? The offense was stagnant all day, especially in the air. Brandon Peters completed 14 of 26 passes for 100 yards, averaging just 3.8 yards per attempt. Freshman running back Josh McCray led the charge on the ground with 156 of Illinois 175 rushing yards, but Purdue stopped him when it mattered.

That’s not how you win close games. So, you can’t solely pin it on Bielema’s decision not to go for it on 4th-and-2. But at the same time, why punt it from the 34-yard line? You could’ve either tried for the 51-yard field goal or go for the first down. Either way, it would’ve been a gutsy call. But you have to at least trust your guys to give you a chance, right?

It’s hard to teach an old dog news tricks, but that’s exactly what Bielema’s being tasked with. Illinois didn’t perform well in one-possession games under Lovie Smith, and it’s been more of the same in Year 1 under Bielema. Of the 5 games Illinois has played so far, 4 have been one-possession games, including the season-opening victory over Nebraska. That’s Illinois’ only win of the year so far. Illini fans are all too familiar with these types of losses.

So what does it come down to? Is it the talent? Is it conservative coaching? It might be a little bit of both. Illinois had its opportunities, especially on one final drive after the Purdue touchdown. The Illini marched down to the Purdue 19-yard line, but Peters threw 3 straight incompletions after a McCray run was stopped at the line of scrimmage.

It has to at least partially fall on Bielema’s play-calling. The reaction to these last couple losses would probably be a little bit better if the offense was given a chance to win instead of punting the ball away.

It won’t get any easier from here. After returning to Champaign to take on Charlotte next week, Illinois has to play Wisconsin before the bye week. Penn State, Minnesota and Iowa are 3 of the final 5 games on the schedule after that.

Illini fans are frustrated, and understandably so. We can talk all we want about how the future is bright under Bielema and how these are still Smith’s players. But Illinois has been close in these games. Winning one of those one-possession games would’ve been a huge boost for this team.

Just think how different this column would be if Illinois had won all of them.