Every week after a Northwestern win or loss, we'll be handing out player grades as a way to analyze the Wildcats' performance from an individual perspective. Rather than rush out the grades on Saturday, we'll sleep on them, and wake up ready to accurately evaluate NU's players, coaches and opponents.
After a slow start, Northwestern dominated a hapless Purdue team, leaving Ross-Ade Stadium with a resounding 45-17 win. The Wildcats put up over 600 yards of offense and forced four Purdue turnovers, meaning high marks for (almost) everyone.
Clayton Thorson: B+
23 of 36, 356 yards, 3 touchdowns, 2 interceptions; 1 rush, 2 yards, 1 touchdown
Clayton Thorson set a career high in yards and was responsible for four touchdowns. How, then, could we give him anything other than an A? Well, for starters, his two first-half picks were very ugly. On the first, the sophomore signal caller missed his man high and wide for an easy pick that led to Purdue’s first touchdown. On his second pick, he stared down Austin Carr, and the pass never had a chance. Even worse, it happened in the red zone and cost Northwestern a chance to extend its lead near the end of a rough first half.
Still, Thorson was outstanding the rest of the game and usually took what the defense gave him. He completed over 60 percent of his passes and spread the ball around to nine different receivers. He did a solid job getting off his primary route when he had time to, and he didn’t take a single sack.
Justin Jackson/John Moten IV: A
Jackson: 22 rushes, 127 yards, 2 touchdowns; 1 reception, 8 yards
Moten: 19 rushes, 116 yards; 1 reception, 20 yards
Against an atrocious Purdue run defense, both Jackson and Moten were fantastic. Jackson was his usual patient self, picking his spots wisely and ripping off chunks of yardage as the margin began to widen. He’s not 100 percent — both he and Pat Fitzgerald admitted as much — but he looked good and took advantage of what the defense game him. He was also afforded basically all of the fourth quarter off thanks to the big lead and the emergence of Moten IV. The talented redshirt freshman showed his great speed and cutback ability, and if not for several plays that ended in shoestring tackles, he would have had his first career score. The future of the running back room looks bright.
Austin Carr: A
5 receptions, 92 yards, 2 touchdowns
Andrew Scanlan: A-
5 receptions, 78 yards
Scanlan continues his ascent in this offense, setting a career high in yards. He’s stronger than most opponents’ defensive backs, and it shows when he’s able to break tackles to turn short throws into big gains.
Anthony Walker: B+
12 tackles, 1 interception, 17 return yards
The Franchise posted double digit tackles and added his first interception of the year. The Wildcats threw a lot of different schemes at the Boilermakers, so Walker had to play a lot of coverage against a team that like to air it out, and that’s not exactly his strong suit, but he was solid regardless. He also made some tackles on special teams — the fact that he has to play in this aspect is concerning, but his play there was solid.
Montre Hartage: A-
1 tackle, 2 interceptions, 4 return yards, 2 pass breakups
Hartage was fantastic after a bit of a slow start. DeAngelo Yancey used his size/speed/strength combination to get space for some first-quarter catches, but he was severely limited after that thanks to Hartage, who was physical at the line for much of the game. His first interception was outstanding; he simply beat Yancey to the spot and the ball. The second one was a poor throw from David Blough. The true sophomore also added two passes defended. It was a solid game for Northwestern’s top corner.
Brett Walsh: B+
Walsh once again racked up a lot of tackles in the place of injured starter Jaylen Prater, but in this game he looked much more comfortable and got off blocks much quicker. Given, playing Purdue is nowhere near like playing Wisconsin, but it was still a nice game from Walsh in his second career start.
Joe Gaziano/Trent Goens/Alex Miller: A-
Gaziano: 2 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 2 sacks
Goens: 1 interception, 23 return yards
Miller: 3 tackles
The group of freshmen defensive linemen (Gaziano and Goens redshirt, Miller true) played very solidly and show a bright future for the position as a whole. Gaziano was a wrecking ball and collected two sacks. Miller had a ewf important tackles, including one on a play in which it looked like Blough would escape the pocket and run for considerable yardage. Goens collected an interception after dropping into coverage and thoroughly fooling Purdue backup Elijah Sindelar.
Mike Hankwitz and Mick McCall: A
McCall was aggressive at times but also didn’t stray away from his running game, which was refreshing. At times, it’s seemed like McCall wanted to put the weight of the comeback effort on Thorson’s shoulders and Thorson’s shoulders alone. Instead, he remained committed to the run and it paid dividends.
Against an explosive Purdue attack, Hankwitz chose to play a variety of coverages and it worked with great success. When Northwestern manufactures pressure with just four pass rushers, Hankwitz is a wizard on the backend.
Pat Fitzgerald: B+
The way Northwestern started this football game was unacceptable, but the adjustments made after halftime were impressive. Northwestern cannot get off to bad starts like these against better teams — the head coach himself noted that in his press conference notes — but whatever he changed at halftime clearly did the trick.