Northwestern's streaky season continued over the weekend as the Wildcats got their second straight victory in a 38-14 win at Purdue. It was another stellar showing for NU, but they lost Trevor Siemian to injury in the process, and they head into their match-up with Illinois expecting to have the senior quarterback on the sideline. Even without Siemian on the field for the majority of the game Saturday, the 'Cats put up some impressive numbers:
During the fourth quarter, Justin Jackson eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark with a 68-yard carry, his longest of the season. Jackson had another spectacular game, nearly replicating his numbers from last week with 23 carries for 147 yards. Jackson finished the day with 1,057 rushing yards and eight touchdowns on the season, complemented by an average of 4.8 yards per carry. Northwestern definitely wouldn't be in bowl contention without the outstanding play from their freshman back, who may very well be the team's best player.
Northwestern turned turnovers into points again this week, getting 17 points off two interceptions and three recovered Boilermaker fumbles. In the first quarter, Jimmy Hall intercepted Austin Appleby and picked up a fumble he forced. NU found the end zone on both of the ensuing drives and led 14-0 after 15 minutes. Ibraheim Campbell would pick off Appleby and recover a fumble later in the game, not to mention several huge hits he laid on Purdue ballcarriers. Beating Illinois shouldn't be a problem if Northwestern has the same success in the turnover margin.
Only three Wildcats recorded multiple receptions Saturday. Kyle Prater and Dan Vitale each had four grabs, which combined for 125 of NU's 181 receiving yards, and Tony Jones had two catches. Northwestern only put the ball in the air 24 times and completed just 13 of those tosses, but the receiver depth is thinning out. Miles Shuler and Stephen Buckley were both out. Cameron Dickerson didn't catch a ball and has had a lot of drops this season. Tony Jones only has 273 receiving yards this season, following a 630-yard campaign in 2013 . Zack Oliver doesn't have many reliable options to work with, but if Justin Jackson keeps putting in work, it probably won't matter.
Aiding Northwestern's recent success is their lack of penalties. They had just four penalties for 35 yards against Purdue, and in their last three outings, NU is averaging four penalties for just over 35 yards. In the three games prior, which were all losses, the 'Cats averaged over 6 penalties per game for 53 yards. The turnovers and strong running game are spearheading Northwestern's late surge, but the little things, like penalties, are contributing too.