LAFAYETTE, IN -- Never in doubt.
The Northwestern Wildcats started slowly against the Purdue Boilermakers, but a huge second half on the ground, a career day from Clayton Thorson and four turnovers forced allowed Northwestern to coast to an easy 45-17 victory.
The game got off to an uninspiring start for the Wildcats, as they allowed an 11-play, 61-yard drive and a field goal to give Purdue the early 3-0 lead. The drive was highlighted by a couple of big connections from David Blough to DeAngelo Yancey.
The Northwestern offense responded almost immediately with a 31 yard catch and run to Andrew Scanlan, but the drive stalled at the Purdue 26. Then, when Northwestern decided to go for it on fourth down, Clayton Thorson badly overthrew his receiver and it landed right into the hands of defensive back C.J. Parker.
After Parker returned the pick to the Northwestern 33, Purdue pounded the ball up the middle with running back Markell Jones and David Blough on the option. Blough scored on a one yard rush on fourth and goal to extend the lead to 10-0. It was just about the worst possible start Northwestern could have had and forced the visitors to begin yet another comeback.
Unlike most of the season, though, the defense would be the ones to get the comeback started. After a Northwestern punt, Montre Hartage picked off an errant pass from Blough on third-and-7, and the Wildcats were in business. A few plays later Northwestern was in the endzone on a two yard pass to Austin Carr. It was Carr’s 11th TD of the season, tying him for second all-time in single season Northwestern history with Jeremy Ebert in 2011.
After forcing a turnover to set up the touchdown, the defense did its best to keep the defect at three, forcing a Purdue punt from around midfield. Northwestern offense promptly went three-and-out though and a Hunter Niswander shank gave Purdue great field position at the NU 34. Purdue simply refused the Wildcat gift, quickly going four-and-out and turning it over on downs.
After a relatively slow start, the offense finally picked it up midway through the second quarter. Northwestern went 74 yards in eight plays and ended the drive with a 33-yard touchdown pass to Carr. It was Carr’s second TD of the game and 12th TD of the year tying him with D’Wayne Bates for the school record. Despite the early 10-0 deficit, Northwestern had a 14-10 lead.
Purdue punted on its next possession, but Northwestern squandered a scoring opportunity as Clayton Thorson threw an interception in the redzone. Thorson stared down Carr and threw it into double coverage, allowing Markus Bailey to jump the route and pick it off at the Purdue six yard line. It was Thorson’s second interception of the day.
The Boilermakers managed to get out of the shadow of their own endzone, but not much farther as they were forced to punt from their own 40. Northwestern was pinned on its own 13, but couldn’t run a effective enough two minute drill to get any points before the half. The start was not good, but Northwestern managed to take a 14-10 lead into the halftime locker room.
Northwestern came out of the locker room firing on all cylinders. On the backs of Justin Jackson and John Moten IV, Northwestern marched down the field going 71 plays in seven plays and finishing it off with a 14-yard touchdown from Jackson. It was exactly what the Wildcats needed to start the half, and it extended their lead to 11.
It only got worse for the Boilermakers from there. After Anthony Walker picked off David Blough at midfield, the offense showed it quick strike capability with a 42 yard touchdown to Garrett Dickerson up the seam.
The Dickerson score made it 28-10, but the drama wasn’t over yet. Purdue answered with a long touchdown of its own, a 49 yard pass to Bilal Marshall, to keep the deficit at 11. Marshall simply got behind the coverage and was wide open for an easy score.
Still, it was becoming obvious that the visitors would not be stopped. Northwestern quickly drove 74 yards down the field, punching it in on a two yard run from Thorson. The drive was only 2:22 and just seven minutes into the quarter, it was the fourth touchdown scored. It was also Thorson’s fourth score of the day.
The action slowed a bit when Purdue had a long drive that wound up ending in a punt, but Northwestern came right back down the field. The Wildcats executed a perfect nine-play, 91-yard drive capping it off with an easy nine yard rushing touchdown from Justin Jackson.
Blough came back with yet another interception, his third of the day, and at this point things got ugly. Northwestern drove down the field and Jack Mitchell kicked a 23 yard field goal to extend the lead to 45-17 Northwestern. Purdue brought in a new quarterback, Elijah Sindelar, but it didn’t matter as he was immediately picked off by Trent Goens. At this point Northwestern brought in the bench mob, and tried to get veteran Tom Hruby the touchdown. Unfortunately Hruby wasn’t able to punch it in and Northwestern turned it over on downs.
Purdue managed to drive out of its own endzone and cross midfield, but it was to no avail as the offense was unable to get points. Northwestern got the ball back and just knelt on it completing its domination of the Boilermakers and winning 45-17.
- Clayton Thorson had a couple of shaky throws early on in the first half, but overall had another great game. Thorson set career high numbers across the board finishing 23-36 for 352 yards and 3 TDs. He still has troubles with staring down receivers and Purdue’s defense is pretty bad, but either way it was a great day from the quarterback.
- The defense continues to be a bit leaky against both the run and the pass. Some timely sacks helped minimize the damage, but Purdue was able to move the ball most of the day. However, David Blough threw three interceptions which basically negated anything that Purdue was able to do.
- One of the surprises of the game was the play of John Moten IV. Moten ran for a career high 119 yards on 16 carriers. He showed his strength and explosiveness throughout the game as he broke off more than one big run against the Purdue defense.
- Offensive balance was much better in the second half. After throwing the ball 27 times in the first half and only running it 18 times, the strategy flipped as they ran the ball 26 times to 10 passes. While much of that has to do with the amount of garbage time in the fourth quarter, it was still trending this way before that.