Purdue Escapes Against Northwestern, 24-22
Early in the preseason, a matchup between Northwestern and Purdue in early November might have been thought of as a must-watch game, with serious implications for the Big Ten West standings.
Fast forward to Saturday and the two teams have played like anything but contenders -- both having been plagued with injuries and misfortune all season long.
The game did not lack for excitement however, with several second half lead changes, finally ending with a last second, 39-yard field goal off the boot of JD Dellinger into the wind to give Purdue the 24-22 win. The kick also snapped a winless streak against the Wildcats that goes back to 2010.
That drive was extended after a fourth down pass to David Bell got flagged for pass interference by Northwestern, giving Purdue the field position it needed for Dellinger to win the game.
In the first half, Northwestern (1-8) threatened to run away with the game early, scoring on its first two offensive possessions. Previous to that the Wildcats had not hit pay dirt since early October -- going without a touchdown on 45 straight drives. One of those scores was a 79-yard run straight up the middle by wide reciever turned running back Kyric McGowan. He would finish the day with more than 160 yards of total offense.
Northwestern finished the first half with 255 yards in offense -- in a season in which the team averages just 258 yards per game total. The Wildcats would end up with 435 yards in total offense of the day and more than double their average of 9.8 points per game, taking advatage of a weak Boilermaker defense.
Purdue third-string quarterback Aiden O’Connell made his first career start just 20 miles from where he played his high school ball. He passed for 271 yards and two touchdowns, but did toss two interceptions and gave up a safety on an intentional grounding penalty, throwing the ball away while standing a few yards deep in the end zone.
Purdue freshmen continue to grow as the season progresses. Boilermaker freshmen are resposible for the team's last 19 trips to the endzone and had two takeaways on defense. Bell was O’Connell's main target on the day, catching 14 passes for 115 yards and one score. Bell leads conference freshman in receptions and sits second overall in the Big Ten in catches.
Purdue improves to 4-6 and 3-4 in conference play after winning back-to-back games for the first time all season. They must still win both of their remaining games to become bowl-eligible. They'll be among the toughest of the season as the Boilers play #16 Wisconsin away from home and finish up at Ross-Ade Stadium against the 7-2 Indiana Hoosiers.