WEST LAFAYETTE — A win is a win, right?
Northwestern started fast, finished slow, and left West Lafayette with a 31-27 win over Purdue. NU scored all 31 of its points in the first half, capitalizing on three Elijah Sindelar interceptions to score 21 points.
The game had 48 first half points, two quarterbacks check in for each team, and a whole lot of plays reviewed. Clayton Thorson was limited to a snap count, causing him and back-up TJ Green to split time at quarterback. Thorson finished with 16-of-26 for 172 yards, while Green finished 7-of-11 for 63 yards. Jeremy Larkin decided to inform the public that he was ready to step up and fill Justin Jackson’s shoes, taking two touchdowns to the house and finishing with 143 yards on an average of 5.5 yards per a carry.
Northwestern found itself on the board first thanks to a JR Pace interception around the Purdue 20-yard line, returned 26 yards. The Wildcats quickly made light work of the Boilermaker defense with a mix or slants and runs. The 64-yard drive finished with a 1-yard touchdown run from Jeremy Larkin.
Northwestern’s defense brought the same energy back onto the field following the touchdown, forcing Purdue to a three-and-out. On second and four, Larkin took off, ending an explosive run with a flat-out rude stiff arm before finally being brought down at the Purdue 13. An 11-yard pass to Riley Lees and two-yard John Moten IV rush later, it was 14-0 Northwestern.
Right when the game was starting to look like a one-sided affair something very Northwestern-esque happened. The Boilermakers stretched four plays into 60 yards, with their ensuing drive culminating with a 32-yard pass to star freshman receiver Rondale Moore (we’d be seeing a lot more from him later this game).
The biggest story leading up to the game was whether or not Clayton Thorson would take the field. Northwestern fans thought that this question was answered until TJ Green checked into the game on NU’s third offensive series, a confusing move after Thorson had led NU to two straight touchdown drives. Green’s first drive was less than stellar. A delay of game followed by a false start contributed to the Wildcats falling to third and 20 and an eventual punt.
Purdue wasted no-time once they got the ball back as Rondale Moore took off for a 76-yard rushing touchdown. It was Purdue’s longest rush since an Akeem Hunt dash back in 2014.
Following an action-filled start, the game finally slowed down a little bit. The Wildcats were forced to settle for a field goal on Green’s second drive, making the score 17-14.
Turnovers continued to be Purdue’s kryptonite, though, when Nate Hall snagged a diving interception on the following drive.
Thorson checked back into the game, immediately connecting downfield with Bennett Skowronek on first down for 40-yards. At the goal line, TJ Green checked back in and rode the Wildcats’ dominant O-Line for a 1-yard QB-sneak.
After a Purdue field goal and an NU punt, Purdue quarterback Elijah Sindelar’s threw his third interception of the night, this time to Montre Hartage on a poor decision. This would be Sindelar’s last pass of the game, however, as David Blough would check in at QB for the remainder of the night. The mistake would prove to be costly, with Northwestern tacking on another touchdown to take a 31-17 lead into halftime.
The Boilermakers came out with a quick answer to Northwestern’s strong first half, cutting the lead to seven on their first drive of the half. At 31-24, scoring halted for the remainder of the third quarter, and then continued when Purdue hit a field goal for the first play of the fourth to bring the game to 31-27.
The Northwestern offense stalled for the majority of the second half. The running game that had been so effective in the first half vanished, and Thorson, and TJ Green briefly, couldn’t muster much downfield.
The biggest drive of the game came at 31-27, as Northwestern had the ball with 7:30 to go. To the surprise of most Northwestern fans, TJ Green walked onto the field to run the offense. The drive took Northwestern to fourth and one on Purdue’s 34, where the Wildcats called an ambitious-but-successful QB sneak to bring up a new set of downs. Purdue would burn all three of their timeouts on the next three plays, but, on a third down play in which the Boilermakers had Larkin stopped short, a late hit gave Northwestern the first down — and essentially the game. With just two minutes left, Northwestern would burn the remainder of the clock with short runs to win the game 31-27.