Austin Appleby Starts; Purdue Boilermakers Beat Illinois Fighting Illini


679 days ago the Purdue Boilermakers were celebrating a Big Ten victory over their in-state rival Indiana Hoosiers. Not many of the players on this year’s team were around back then and the coaching staff has changed a lot since then too. That happened to be the last time the Boilermakers won a Big Ten game, until today.

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Heading into today’s game in Champaign, Ill. no one knew what to expect from the Boilermakers. Head coach Darrell Hazell told the media that the quarterbacking job was up in the air, and he had no idea who would be starting against the Illinois Fighting Illini. Danny Etling had left a sour taste in everyone’s mouth after his dreadful performance last week, so sour that fans were calling for backup Austin Appleby to start today.

Well, the fans got their wish and the decision might have changed the course of the Boilermakers’ season.

Appleby had played some garbage time last year and this year – when Purdue was either blowing someone out or getting blown out – and got to show brief amounts of his talent. The small sample size didn’t apparently show the coaching staff enough for them to put Appleby in over Etling, but it seemed the fans saw in Appleby what he showed us today.

15-of-20 for 202 yards and one passing touchdown. Seven carries for 76 yards and two touchdowns. Appleby’s stat line read like it was a misprint. He looked calm under what little pressure got through Purdue’s offensive line. He made plays through the air and with his feet. He did everything a quarterback should do; everything he’s been doing in those garbage minutes.

While Appleby was a huge factor in the Boilermakers winning 38-17, he wasn’t the only factor. The Purdue rushing game scorched the Illini for 349 yards, including runs of 44, 53, 54 and 62. Akeem Hunt led the way with 30 carries for 177 yards and a touchdown. His touchdown was a 54-yard run. Raheem Mostert scored on a 44-yard run, Keyante Green broke free for a 53-yard run, but no touchdown, and Appleby added a 62-yard run, but was stopped at the 1-yard line.

Oct 4, 2014; Champaign, IL, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini wide receiver Justin Hardee (19) is unable to catch the ball against the Purdue Boilermakers at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Granse-USA TODAY Sports

On defense, the Boilermakers had a tough day covering the Illini wide receivers. Wes Lunt got the start for Illinois after sitting out last week and torched the Boilermakers for 332 yards and two touchdowns. It felt like their wide receivers were invisible, only to show themselves after they caught the ball. Lunt left the game in the fourth quarter after appearing to re-aggravate the knee injury that kept him out of last weeks game.

Reilly O’Toole took over for Lunt and was given the task of bringing the Illini back despite being down 11 points. O’Toole was also able to make the Purdue secondary look foolish, going 9-of-14 for 118, but finished the game with an interception in the endzone. The Boilermakers’ defense was able to sack both quarterbacks a combined three times and combined for five total quarterback hits.

Josh Ferguson led the Illini rushing attack, although their rushing game netted only 65 total yards. Ferguson led the way with 60 yards on 15 carries and a touchdown. He also caught 10 passes for 79 yards, but Mike Dudek had him beat there with eight catches for 200 yards.

At the end of the day, the Boilermakers offense put up 551 yards of total offense, the most since they played the Indiana Hoosiers in 2008.

And on defense they gave up 515 total yards, the most since, you guessed it, they played the Indiana Hoosiers, but this time in 2013.

Purdue is now 3-3, 1-1 in the Big Ten. That’s two more wins than last season and only three more to go before they become bowl eligible. The Purdue Boilermakers return home next week to take on the Michigan State Spartans at 3:30 p.m.