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Purdue holds on for 20-17 victory over Illinois

AP - Sports
Purdue holds on for 20-17 victory over Illinois
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Purdue's Ralph Bolden (23) protects the ball against the defense of Illinois' Eaton Spence (27) and Glenn …

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) -- Akeem Hunt turned a short pass into a 63-yard touchdown, and Purdue took another step toward a second consecutive bowl berth with a 20-17 victory at Illinois on Saturday.

Hunt's big play gave the Boilermakers (5-6, 2-5 Big Ten) a 13-3 lead in the third quarter. After Illinois pulled within 13-10 on a 16-yard touchdown run by Dami Ayoola, Ralph Bolden's 63-yard run set up Akeem Shavers' 6-yard TD scamper for a 20-10 Purdue lead.

With their first back-to-back Big Ten road wins since 2009, the Boilermakers stayed alive in their chase for postseason play. If Purdue can beat Indiana at home next Saturday to earn bowl eligibility, it will be its first three-game winning streak in one season since 2007.

The Boilermakers rallied after losing their first five Big Ten games, but Purdue never trailed against Illinois.

Hunt made a big play on a short pass. After Robert Marve rolled to his right, he threw back to Hunt on the left. Hunt sped down the sideline untouched. Bolden's long run, meanwhile, was a big contribution after multiple knee surgeries had sidetracked his career.

Shavers rushed for 99 yards and Bolden had 93. Marve threw for 173 yards, and the Boilermakers didn't commit a turnover in winning at Illinois for the first time since 2006.

Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase scored on a 2-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to cut the deficit to 20-17, but Illinois (2-9, 0-7) remained the only Big Ten team without a conference win. The Illini have a 13-game conference losing streak.

Ayoola's score was the first by the Illini offense in roughly eight quarters. His touchdown came one play after Scheelhaase connected with Darius Millines on a 22-yard pass on third and 14.

Illinois started the day ranked last in the Big Ten in total offense, scoring offense and rushing offense, and the Illini didn't get much done until late in the game. Scheelhaase completed 22 passes for 160 yards and rushed for 76 yards to lead Illinois.

The Illini were already going with some unconventional thinking, using co-coordinator Chris Beatty to call plays on first and second down before colleague Billy Gonzales handled the duties on third down. Illinois also used defensive tackle Akeem Spence as an extra blocking back.

Purdue took a 6-3 halftime lead on field goals of 31 and 29 yards from Sam McCartney. The Illini's only scoring in the half came on a 54-yard field goal, the third-longest in school history, by Taylor Zalewski.

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