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Watch now: Bret Bielema spreads the blame for Illinois' offensive woes

Watch now: Bret Bielema spreads the blame for Illinois' offensive woes

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CFB: Purdue vs Illinois

Illinois quarterback Brandon Peters was 14-of-26 passing for 100 yards Saturday.

CHAMPAIGN — The Illinois offense has been a big reason for the team's four-game losing streak, with slow starts plaguing the Illini.

Through five games, Illinois hasn't scored a touchdown in the first quarter, and Saturday marked the first game in which the team failed to score a touchdown at all.

Purdue squeezed out a 13-9 home win as the Illini offense struggled yet again. Outside of true freshman running back Josh McCray, who totaled 24 carries for 156 rushing yards, production was hard to come by.

Quarterback Brandon Peters, who missed nearly all of the first three games with a left (non-throwing) shoulder injury, had a tough outing for the second straight week in his second full game of the year. The sixth-year senior was 14-of-26 passing for 100 yards and threw three straight incompletions on Illinois' last and potential game-winning drive against the Boilermakers.

When asked about Peters' status as the Illini's QB1, coach Bret Bielema kept his cards close to the vest.

"I appreciate the question, I know because it's a starting quarterback it's a hot topic," Bielema said Monday. "I think you guys (in the media) also understand and appreciate, like, whatever the situation is in the Smith Center (Illinois' practice facility), if there was a time about changing the right guard — I obviously switched out Seth (Coleman) and Isaiah (Gay at outside linebacker), we didn't announce that to the world, right?

"I get why you've got to ask the question. I would tell you BP probably right after the game and also on Sunday when I had a conversation with him to where he is (Monday), he knows he wants to get better."

Bielema emphasized the team's offensive woes don't fall squarely on Peters' shoulders and there is room for other players and the coaching staff to improve as well.

At the 10:36 mark of the second quarter Saturday, Illinois had actually run more plays (11) than total yards of offense (seven). A 51-yard field goal by James McCourt got the team on the board just before halftime and two more field goals kept the Illini in the game.

"We got a great field goal kicker, but we got to turn some of those field goals into touchdowns," offensive coordinator Tony Petersen said. "You turn just one of those field goals or two of those field goals into touchdowns, find a way to get one or two of those big plays in the end zone, all of a sudden you're winning by seven to 10 points. ...

"We just gotta keep battling because we're so close. I promise you we're so close and once you get over that edge and you start understanding and having that feeling for winning those games, it starts happening more and more and more."

First start

True freshman Pat Bryant made his first college start at Purdue and had his most productive game yet. The 6-foot-3, 195-pound wide receiver recorded three catches for 25 yards and all of them came on Illinois' final drive.

Bryant's most impressive reception was a 12-yarder near the sideline where he tapped his toes to stay in bound.

"Love Pat Bryant, big time freshman," Petersen said. "I think he's gonna be a great receiver here for many years. We're gonna keep getting him in the game moving forward. ... He's long, he's got great hands, I mean you saw that one play towards the end on that boot out to the sideline that he caught on the sideline. He looked like he'd been playing for two or three years here, so (I'm) very excited about Pat."

Injury update

Cornerback Devon Witherspoon and running back Chase Brown did not travel to Purdue due to undisclosed injuries. Linebacker Jake Hansen made the trip but was held out, too, because of an undisclosed ailment. All three players are starters and arguably the best at their respective positions on the team.

Bielema said Monday that Hansen is expected to play Saturday at home against Charlotte, but he isn't sure about Witherspoon or Brown.

"I left Chase and Spoon behind because they would actually get more benefit from staying behind," Bielema said. " ... Our guys actually stayed and went to the basketball arena and got treatment on Saturday when we weren’t here. Just another great indication of how much this athletic department works together. We tried to get our guys a couple extra treatments in hopes they will be with us this week. I don’t know whether they will or not."

Tight end Daniel Barker, who's tied for the team high with two receiving touchdowns, was limited against the Boilermakers due to an undisclosed injury, according to Bielema and Petersen. His status for Saturday's game is unclear.

"From a health standpoint, that’s the most updated information I can give you," Bielema said.


Follow James Boyd on Twitter: @RomeovilleKid

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