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updated: 11/22/2013 4:50 PM

Illinois vs. Purdue — someone has to win

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  • Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase loses his helmet after being sacked during the second half of last Saturday's home loss to Ohio State.

      Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase loses his helmet after being sacked during the second half of last Saturday's home loss to Ohio State.
    Associated Press

  • Purdue wide receiver DeAngelo Yancey hauls in a pass in front of Penn State safety Ryan Keiser for a 15-yard gain during the third quarter of last Saturday's game in State College, Pa.

      Purdue wide receiver DeAngelo Yancey hauls in a pass in front of Penn State safety Ryan Keiser for a 15-yard gain during the third quarter of last Saturday's game in State College, Pa.
    Associated Press

 
Associated Press

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- The Big Ten season hasn't been anything to brag about for Illinois and Purdue.

The Boilermakers haven't won since the season-opener. The Fighting Illini have lost six straight games in the Big Ten.

Somebody's lengthy losing streak will come to an end on Saturday when the Illini (3-7, 0-6 Big Ten) visit the Boilermakers (1-9, 0-6) for Purdue's Senior Day.

In a 45-21 loss to Penn State last week, the Boilermakers scored more points than they had in the three prior games combined. Illinois has found ways to score. Still, both have two of the worst defenses in the Big Ten.

"Should be an exciting contest," Purdue coach Darrell Hazell said. "They do a great job offensively. Just watch their numbers and you watch them play, and they do a great job of spreading the offense."

The Boilermakers and Fighting Illini will play for the Cannon trophy on Saturday before Illinois wraps up the season with Northwestern and Purdue visits Indiana. Here are five things to watch on Saturday:

CONTAINING SCHEELHAASE: Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase is 104-of-159 passing with 1,059 yards and five touchdowns in the last three games. He is four yards away from moving into second in school history and No. 10 in Big Ten history in total offense. Scheelhaase just wants to lead is team to its first Big Ten win of the season. "I think we've prepared every week like it should be the week," Scheelhaase said. "I've really been feeling the last three weeks we've been preparing like champions. Hopefully at the end of the 60 minutes on Saturday, we'll come out with a win."

FRESHMAN IMPROVEMENT: Each week, Purdue quarterback Danny Etling has improved little by little. First, Hazell made a point to make adjustments to the offensive line to give the freshman QB more time to make plays. He completed the most passes of the season against Penn State (21 of 33). He threw for 223 yards -- the most since throwing for 281 against Northern Illinois on Sept. 28. Etling's strides are obvious and the offense is becoming productive than it has been most of the year. "I think it's everybody just really understanding that their role is so vitally important," Hazell said. "If you can take care of your role as an individual, then it's going to help. And offensively you've got to be 11 for 11 guys doing the right thing."

A NUMBERS GAME: Illinois is No. 7 in the Big Ten and they average 23.5 points in conference games this year. Purdue is last in total offense. They average 8.7 points per game in the conference. Purdue is No. 10 in total defense. Illinois is No. 11 and has given up 36 touchdowns.

SENIOR DAY: The Boilermakers will recognize 21 seniors on Senior Day, including safety Rob Henry. He was named the starting quarterback for Purdue at the beginning of the season before Etling took the starting role last month. Henry has also seen time as a punter this season. He's in his fifth year at Purdue, shared time under center with other quarterbacks, including Robert Marve and Caleb Terbush, and missed the 2011 season with an ACL injury. For Henry and the other seniors, Saturday will be the last time they play a game in West Lafayette. "Our seniors' last chance," Hazell said. "Twenty-one seniors' last chance to run out into the Furnace, so it's a big game for them, I'm sure, so we'll have to get recomposed pretty quickly after those guys run out and meet their families."

COACHING REUNION: Hazell and Beckman coached together while at Ohio State. Hazell coached the wide receivers and Beckman coached the defensive backs. Both moved on and coached in the Mid-American Conference. In 2011, Bechman was at Toledo while Hazell was at Kent State before Bechman took the top job at Illinois.

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