Purdue Boilermakers vs. Illinois Fighting Illini: History of the Purdue Cannon


Back in 1890, the Purdue Boilermakers and Illinois Fighting Illini started their rivalry on the gridiron. That game was won by Purdue 62-0, but a lot has changed since their first game, including the introduction of the Purdue Cannon trophy.

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15 years after their first meeting, a group of Purdue students decided to take a cannon with them to the Purdue-Illinois game in 1905. They had planned to use it after Purdue won, which they did 29-0, but were thwarted when a group of Illinois fans found the cannon’s hiding spot. The trophy was hidden away on a farm, where it survived a fire, and was brought out of hiding in 1943.

1943 marked the end of a 12-year hiatus between the two squads. The Purdue Cannon was brought back to be used as a trophy, going to the victor each season.

Nov 23, 2013; West Lafayette, IN, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase (2) runs with the ball during the second quarter against the Purdue Boilermakers at Ross Ade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

This will be the 90th all time meeting between the two squads. Illinois leads the overall series 43-40-6, while Purdue leads the matchups since the Purdue Cannon was introduced in 1943, 32-28-2. Since 2001, the Boilermakers lead the series 7-5, including five straight victories from 2003-2009. Illinois won last season 20-16 and have a very good chance of making it two straight, which we covered in our “Know Thine Enemy” article yesterday.

The Purdue Cannon may not be heralded like the Old Oaken Bucket (Purdue-IU) or the Shilelagh (Purdue-Notre Dame), but it’s important to the players and it’s added motivation for both sides to walk away victorious.