WEST LAFAYETTE (AP) — Purdue’s seniors took advantage of their last chance to shine at home Saturday in a 37-3 victory over Illinois on Senior Day.

Jerod Void ran for 102 yards and a touchdown. Defensive end Rob Ninkovich lined up at tight end and caught a 1-yard touchdown pass. Brian Hickman intercepted a pass and returned it 45 yards, and Brandon Villarreal had eight tackles and half a sack.

It was a bittersweet end to the seniors’ home careers. The Boilermakers started the season ranked 15th in the Associated Press Top 25, but went on a six-game losing streak before winning their final two home games.

The Boilermakers (4-6, 2-5 Big Ten) won’t play in a bowl game, but they saved themselves from finishing at the bottom of the league standings.

Ninkovich said it was a day to remember.

“It’s a great feeling to run out in Ross-Ade (Stadium),” Ninkovich said. “It was sad, but at the same time, it was great because we won.”

Pierre Thomas led Illinois (2-8, 0-7) with 68 yards on 11 carries, and Rashard Mendenhall added 49 yards on nine carries. The Fighting Illini avoided being shut out when Jason Reda kicked a 30-yard field goal with 7:37 left.

Illinois will take an eight-game losing streak into its game next Saturday against Northwestern. The Fighting Illini clinched at least a tie for last place in Ron Zook’s first year as coach.

Ninkovich scored the second offensive touchdown of his career in his final home game. Curtis Painter faked to Void and lobbed a pass over the defense to the wide-open Ninkovich.

“It felt great to score again,” he said. “That’s a good play to run and a change of pace. The play worked to perfection.”

Void is three touchdowns short of Mike Alstott’s school record of 39 rushing touchdowns heading into the season finale against Indiana. Purdue coach Joe Tiller said the team perhaps wanted to get Void into the end zone too much. He was stopped on short yardage several times in the fourth quarter, but Painter scored on two different possessions after faking to Void.

“I’ve been around the game a long time, and when you force things like that, invariably, it seems like they don’t work,” Tiller said. “In nine years, we rarely have tried to specifically get a ball to a player for a specific instance.”

Void had his second consecutive big game. He ran for 134 yards and three touchdowns the previous week in a 28-21 win over Michigan State.

Painter improved to 2-2 as Purdue’s starting quarterback. The redshirt freshman completed 18 of 26 passes for 201 yards and a touchdown and ran 16 times for 57 yards and two scores.

The Purdue defense extended its shutout streak to six quarters before giving up the field goal in the fourth quarter. The Boilermakers entered the game ranked 112th out of 117 Division I teams in total defense but held Illinois to 265 yards.

The first quarter was scoreless. Purdue running back Kory Sheets ended a nine-play, 94-yard drive with an 18-yard touchdown run that gave the Boilermakers a 10-0 edge at halftime.

After Ninkovich scored his touchdown in the third quarter, Void scored from the 2-yard line to give Purdue a 24-0 lead early in the fourth.

Painter scored Purdue’s last two touchdowns in the fourth quarter as the Boilermakers outscored Illinois 20-3 in the final period.

Illinois failed to score a touchdown for the second consecutive game. The Illini lost to Ohio State 40-2 the previous week.

The Illini had four turnovers against Purdue and committed 11 penalties for 96 yards.

“We’re beating ourselves more than people are beating us,” Zook said. “I guess if there can be a bright spot, that’s a bright spot.”

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