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No. 22 Purdue 48, Illinois 3

October 25, 1997

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) _ His offense gained 501 yards and scored five touchdowns, but Purdue coach Joe Tiller was more impressed with his team’s defense.

``Wow. What a job on turnovers,″ Tiller said Saturday after the No. 22 Boilermakers won their sixth straight game and handed Illinois its 13th straight loss with a 48-3 win.

``I think the defense just did a very good job. They were heads up and were very opportunistic.″

The Boilermakers intercepted four passes, recovered three fumbles, sacked first-time starting quarterback Kirk Johnson seven times and held the Illini offense to 13 first downs and a field goal.

The win guaranteed the Boilermakers (6-1, 4-0 Big Ten) their first winning season since 1984, when they finished 7-5 and went to the Peach Bowl. That was also the last time the team was nationally ranked.

Quarterback Billy Dicken, who ran for one touchdown and passed for two, completed 15 of 24 passes for 215 yards. He said it’s easier for him to play when the defense is playing well.

``You’re more relaxed, you’re not tense and you play ball,″ he said. ``The defense was awesome today. They were pumped up and they gave us the opportunities to score.″

The Fighting Illini (0-7, 0-3) are still searching for their first win under new coach Ron Turner. The 13-game losing streak is the second-longest in school history.

Johnson is the third Illini quarterback to start this season. He finished 14-of-27 for 128 yards with four interceptions.

The Boilermakers’ first score of the game came after Johnson was intercepted by Adrian Beasley. Following a five-play, 26-yard drive, Dicken scored on a 3-yard touchdown run to make it 7-0.

Tiller said he wasn’t surprised Turner decided to start Johnson, given the Illini’s situation this year with unproductive starts from Mark Hoekstra and Tim Lavery.

``That’s the same thing we would do. We certainly wouldn’t stand pat,″ Tiller said.

The Boilermakers mishandled an 85-yard punt by Ryan Tabloff later in the first quarter and ended up on their own 1-yard line. But they recovered with a 99-yard, 12-play drive that resulted in a 2-yard touchdown pass from Dickens to wide receiver Brian Alford.

Shane Ryan hit a 44-yard field goal to make it 17-0 after Purdue recovered a fumble by George McDonald-Ashford.

Purdue made it 24-0 after Johnson was sacked by Willie Burroughs and fumbled the ball, which Mike Rose scooped up for a 26-yard touchdown return.

The Illini, who didn’t get a first down until the second quarter, finally scored with 6:11 left in the first half following a 13-play, 65-yard drive that ended with a 32-yard field goal by Neil Rackers.

Turner said he’s not seeing the same team on the playing field as he does in practice.

``We have to learn to come out and play on Saturday like we play on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday,″ he said. ``We’re not doing that right now. That’s why where we are where we are.″

Alford became Purdue’s career leader in TD catches with his second score of the game, a 22-yard reception that put Purdue up 31-3. It was Alford’s 28th TD catch for Purdue, breaking the record set by Dave Young from 1977-1980.

Alford finished with seven catches for 109 yards and two touchdowns.

The Boilermakers scored in the second half on short touchdown runs by Ed Watson and Drew Brees, who replaced Dicken at quarterback at the start of the fourth quarter.

Purdue running back Kendall Matthews was helped off the field in the fourth quarter when he fell down at the 50-yard line after a 32-yard run that appeared headed for the end zone. Coach Joe Tiller said Matthews suffered a severe strain in his leg and will miss next week’s game against Iowa.

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