Josh Ferguson's return sparks Illinois blowout of Purdue
Final: Illinois 48, Purdue 14
Key play: Josh Ferguson 12-yard touchdown catch in second quarter
Get ready for some raving about Josh Ferguson. The Illinois tailback played in his first game since the B1G opener and didn’t waste much time making his presence felt. In typical Ferguson fashion, he provided a needed spark in the passing game to give Illinois some breathing room in the second quarter. That showed you the safety valve that Wes Lunt had been lacking in recent weeks. That was just the beginning of Ferguson’s monster day.
Telling stat: Illinois had 46 B1G points entering Saturday
Illinois’ offense had been brutal in B1G play. Their highest single-game output before Saturday was 20 points. The Illini had that by halftime against Purdue’s lowly defense. Why did Illinois’ offense struggle so much? Well, because Ferguson was out against some of the B1G’s best defenses. Ferguson is underrated in terms of a national perspective, but those who watch the B1G know how big of an impact Ferguson makes. His 174 yards from scrimmage further proved that he’s one of the most versatile threats in the B1G. On top of that, he can pass block, which was an area Illinois struggled with in recent weeks. To put it simply, Illinois looks much, much more formidable with Ferguson on the field.
-Ke’Shawn Vaughn has tons of talent
I’ve been critical of the freshman, but on Saturday, he played the best game of his young career. We saw how dangerous Vaughn can be in the open field, especially when he has gaping holes to run through. His career-high 203 yards from scrimmage provided Illinois with a deadly one-two punch out of the backfield that Purdue simply had no response for. You can expect Bill Cubit to try and use Vaughn in a similar role moving forward.
-Purdue has allowed 40-plus points in three of last four games
Lost in the shuffle of last week’s victory against Nebraska was the fact that once again, the Boiler defense was gashed. Against Illinois at home, Purdue had a chance to get back on track. Instead, the Boilers again showed how badly they miss Ja’Whaun Bentley. The Boilers missed far too many tackles to give themselves a chance. Andy Garcia was the only Boiler that looked like he was capable of making a play. Turnovers bailed out the unit last week, but once again, they showed that if they aren’t getting takeaways, they can’t stop much of anything.
What it means: Illinois’ bowl chances are alive and well, Purdue takes a step back
This was a game that Illinois absolutely had to have to put itself back into the bowl conversation. Credit Cubit’s squad for stepping up and doing just that after it was humiliated at Penn State. Last week could’ve sparked a downward spiral. Instead, the Illini showed its plenty worthy of a postseason game. Purdue, on the other hand, suffered yet another blowout loss to a middling B1G team. It looked an awful like the Minnesota game, which has to be troubling. It was reported earlier in the week that Darrell Hazell was going to return for the 2016 season. But it’s efforts like Saturday’s that will continue to make Purdue fans question that decision.