Purdue holds on for 20-17 victory over Illinois


Purdue holds on for 20-17 victory over Illinois

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 its 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.

Illinois (2-9, 0-7) remained the only team in the Big Ten without a conference win. The Illini have a 13-game conference losing streak.

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Jay Gruden's job is on the hot seat, and he knows it

Jay Gruden's job is on the hot seat, and he knows it

The Redskins lost their fourth straight game on Sunday, this time in embarrassing fashion. Washington head coach Jay Gruden can feel the pressure mounting. 

"My job is in jeopardy every week," Gruden said after the 40-16 defeat. 

Forgive the head coach a bit of hyperbole, but not much. NFL coaches age in dog years. Every game is a referendum on their ability, and that takes a toll.

For Gruden, it hasn't been an easy season. What started well has since fallen apart, and things swung dramatically when Alex Smith broke his leg last month. His team took an even bigger hit when Colt McCoy also broke his leg last week

Not everything swung on the health of the quarterbacks though.

The Redskins defense started the season strong but has been bad for the last six weeks. Penalties are also a tremendous problem for the Burgundy and Gold. 

"For the most part, I don’t have an explanation right now as far as what the breakdowns were, who they were and why they were," he said.

It doesn't seem fair to blame everything on Gruden, but that's also the nature of the NFL. 

In some ways, it seems Gruden's modest success in Washington might also be his downfall. Jay Gruden's teams won at least seven games the last three years. No Redskins coach in the last 20 years can say the same thing. Gruden was the first, and only, coach to get a contract extension under owner Daniel Snyder. That shows some level of continued competency. Gruden has maneuvered with a stable roster capable of sustained mediocrity, largely without drama.

But there also hasn't been any real success.

The team won the NFC East in 2015, but got quickly dispatched in the playoffs. Gruden's squad lost a win-and-in Week 17 game to the Giants in 2016 to miss the playoffs. In 2017, injuries buried the Redskins' chance at playoff success. In 2018, a new rash of injuries did the same thing. 

The ugly losses don't help. There have been embarrassing defeats that lead some in the 'Skins fanbase to scream for coaching changes. The first half of the Giants game might be a new low point for a franchise that all too often is forced to wonder about new low points. 

Gruden knows the current situation. He understands it. 

He was clearly upset after the Giants game, frustrated by the injuries and his defense's play. Next week in Jacksonville, the team will start their fourth quarterback of the season. That's almost unprecedented in the NFL. 

"What did work? There was nothing that worked so nothing worked. Everything did not work," the coach said.

The nature of the NFL beast means the spotlight lands on the head coach, for better or worse. Gruden, now in his fifth season, knows that, and knows what that means after an awful loss. 

"It’s tough to deal with. It really is. It’s unfortunate. Our guys continue to compete. That product we put on the field today was not a reflection of the guys work during the week and at practice. However, it did look bad. It’s a reflection of all of us."

While the reflection might be of the whole team, Gruden is in the center. 



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Three things to watch for Wizards at Pacers, including if John Wall and Victor Oladipo will play

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Three things to watch for Wizards at Pacers, including if John Wall and Victor Oladipo will play

John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter Jr. and the Washington Wizards take on Myles Turner, Domantas Sabonis, Bojan Bogdanovic and the Indiana Pacers. Tipoff is at 7 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington. 

Here are three things to watch...

Will Wall play?

As John Wall continues to deal with a variety of issues, including a left heel injury, he may miss Monday's matchup with the Pacers. Wall was absent for Sunday's practice one day after scoring only one point in a blowout loss to the Cavaliers.

If Wall's heel does not improve much, it may make more sense to rest him. Just two games ago they were able to win without him against the Atlanta Hawks. Austin Rivers and Tomas Satoransky in the starting lineup may be a better option than a hobbled version of Wall.

Oladipo also hurt

Wall isn't the only star guard who could miss this game. The Pacers have been without Victor Oladipo since Nov. 17 due to a knee injury. He has missed their last 10 games.

The Pacers have actually played quite well without Oladipo, who earned All-NBA honors last season. They are 6-4 since he went down and have won three straight. He is considered day-to-day.

Oladipo, 26, is having another big year with 21.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 1.6 steals per game. Tyreke Evans has started in his place alongside point guard Darren Collison.

Pacers are great on defense

The Wizards had major trouble scoring on Saturday night and that was against the Cavs, arguably the worst defensive team in the NBA. In the Pacers, they will meet possibly the best defense in the league.

Anchored by Myles Turner in the middle, the Pacers are allowing the fewest points (101.5) of any team in the NBA this season and their defensive rating (103.7) ranks third. They force the fourth-most turnovers per game (15.7) and hold teams to the fifth-lowest field goal percentage (44.1).

The Wizards will have to work to get good looks on the offensive end, as Indiana will not make it easy on them.