Purdue beats Illinois, stays alive for bowl

Purdue could have easily curled into the fetal position and given up on this season after losing five straight games in Big Ten play.

But the Boilermakers didn't do that, and they've taken advantage of the weaker part of their league schedule to give themselves a shot at the postseason. Purdue won at Illinois 20-17 in a game that wasn't pretty but was plenty good enough for Danny Hope's team.

It was just 6-3 at halftime, and anyone watching had to feel a little drowsy in the third quarter until Purdue finally broke a big play. Robert Marve hit Akeem Hunt on a throwback screen, and Hunt used his speed and some good blocking for a 63-yard touchdown.

From there, the game turned into a shootout, at least compared to what had occurred in the previous two-and-half quarters, as the two teams traded touchdowns. Illinois, mired in an awful season, showed some fight by turning in a 95-yard drive to cut the lead to 20-17 with 3:29 left. But the onsides kick failed, Purdue got a first down, and that was that.

Akeem Shavers ran for 99 yards, and Ralph Bolden added 93. However, Bolden pulled up lame on a 40-yard run and suffered what the team said was a hamstring injury. After working back from three torn ACLs, Bolden deserves a shot to play in a bowl if Purdue gets there.

Marve wasn't spectacular but was efficient, completing 18-of-26 pass attempts for 173 yards and no turnovers.

So now Purdue has to beat Indiana at home in the finale to qualify for a bowl. That will add some serious spice to the rivalry, as the Hoosiers will look to play spoiler. Will it be enough to save Hope's job? That remains a big question, but at least the Boilers have fought to try and salvage something out of this season.

For the Illini, the best news is that the season is almost over.