Purdue 21, Illinois 14.
Sure, it's an upset loss to a team whose best previous win was over Minnesota. But on the bright side, if there's any fan base in America that should be able to handle the emotional swing that comes with the sudden disintegration of a 6-0 start — that should have been expecting it, really, bracing for it — it's Illinois. From last-place finishes to the Rose Bowl and back again, Champaign under Ron Zook has been the unofficial capital of emotional swings. So: Here we go again!
Even today, the Illini salvaged a few glimmers of hope from three quarters of despair with a pair of fourth quarter touchdown drives that saved them from total embarrassment on the scoreboard and in the box score. Like last week against Ohio State, they come away with more total yards, more first downs and more yards per play, and they avoid a shutout. Unlike last week, they can't write off the sinking feeling that the breakthrough season that seemed to be in the making during the fast start is descending punt by punt into yet another campaign of mediocrity. The offense booted it away eight times in its first ten possessions today, and botched an attempt at punt No. 9 before waking up for the too-little/too-late rally.
From here, Illinois goes to Penn State, gets Michigan at home and hosts Wisconsin, with the very strong likelihood of extending the current skid to five games — the Illini are likely underdogs in all three — going into Minnesota for the season finale. That's the same Minnesota vying as we speak to become the worst Big Ten team of all time, and that rallied to upset Illinois under similarly depressing circumstances last November. If that winds up being the game the Illini need to top .500 for just the second time in Zook's seven-year tenure, maybe he's not quite as far out of Hot Seat Woods as we all thought.