Purdue pulls away in 4th for win over Illini

West Lafayette, IN (WCIA) -- Again, Illinois was in the game until the very end but allowed their opponent to pull away in the 4th and dropped their seventh game in a row.

Cam Thomas, the offense is yours. For just the fourth time in program history, a true freshman started a quarterback for Illinois. After splitting reps with Jeff George Junior the past few weeks, Thomas took the majority of snaps at Purdue, completing 10 of his 20 passes for 159 yards. He also ran 14 times for 30 yards.

"I feel like I took a big step in the right direction in running and passing and being able to see passing lanes as well," Thomas said.

We didn't get a chance to see that progress turn into points and Thomas' first career touchdown though, as the Chicago Heights product was pulled in the red zone in the first quarter on what turned out to be Illinois' only touchdown of the day. Illinois head coach Lovie Smith said he thought putting George in the game in that situation presented a better opportunity for the Illini to pass the ball and it ended up paying off. Overall, Smith says he's happy with Thomas' performance.

"I think we can say that Cam Thomas has gotten better each week he's gone out," Lovie Smith said. "The more reps he gets in practice, game situations. There are signs that you like; him running the ball and throwing the ball also, he's making progress."

Smith didn't commit to Thomas starting the rest of the season. Once again the Illini found themselves within reach in the second half but couldn't string anything together.

"Where's the game? I mean throughout the course of this season we've played good halves but being able to put two halves together is where we're lacking right now," Smith added. "We haven't been able to figure that out."

Injuries are starting to add up for the Illini, especially on offense. The offensive line was shaken up once again as center Doug Kramer couldn't go. At one point in the second half, Illinois only had three scholarship receivers available after Malik Turner went down. On top of it all, they only used one running back. Senior Kendrick Foster was the only running back to touch the ball, Reggie Corbin was here but didn't play, he's hurt. Ra'Von Bonner didn't make the trip, also injured.

Illinois host Indiana next Saturday at 11 a.m.


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