In a battle for dominance atop the Big Ten West, Northwestern edged out Purdue on Saturday at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette 27-20. The Wildcats did it with an effective offensive attack, mixed with a potent defensive front that allowed the Boilers only two rushing yards.
The start of the game set the tone, with Northwestern scoring on their opening possession. They did it on a methodical six-minute, 14-play, 75-yard drive that was capped off by an eight-yard TD pass from Peyton Ramsey to Ramaud Chiaokhiao.
Meanwhile, the Boilers’ first two possessions of the game fizzled quickly, with a total of 9 plays and 28 net yards on the two drives. Though, their defense answered the punch from Northwestern’s opening possession score delivering consecutive three and outs.
The second three-and-out came with the ball at the one-yard line, setting up a punt and great field position for Purdue at the Northwestern 38-yard line. The Boilers drive would stall out at the 14-yard line, where they settled for a 30-yard J.D. Dellinger field goal to get PU on the board for the first time, as they trailed 7-3 with 1:20 left in the 1st quarter.
The Wildcats answered on the ensuing possession with a field goal of their own. This one coming from 46 yards as Charlie Kuhbander put it through the uprights.
Midway through the 2nd quarter, Purdue knotted things up at ten as Aidan O’Connell connected with tight-end Garrett Miller to the left sideline, where he took his first career reception as a Boilermaker 40 yards for the score.
However, any time Purdue struck, Northwestern seemed to be able to answer almost immediately. On the ensuing possession, the trend continued for the Wildcats as Ramsey connected with Chiaokhiao for a second TD connection between the two for the day.
As the two foes went into the locker room at the half, Northwestern held the 17-10 edge over Purdue. However, the Boilers were set to receive the 2nd half kickoff, offering a chance to take back momentum.
Momentum indeed continued to weigh heavily, yet not in favor of the Boilers. Their opening drive ended quickly in a three and out. Then after the Purdue defense forced a quick punt, the ensuing drive for Boilermakers came to an abrupt halt as O’Connell fumbled the ball, and Northwestern recovered and took it 22 yards the other way to the PU 18 yard line.
It would take the Wildcats all of five plays to cap the drive off on a third Ramsey to Chiaokhiao TD connection. This made it 24-10 with 7:39 left to play in the third quarter, putting the Boilers in a significant hole.
O’Connell recovered well after the turnover, leading Purdue on a ten-play 64-yard scoring drive, that saw him complete his first four consecutive passes. Though, after being set up with a 1st and goal at the Wildcats six-yard line, O’Connell threw three straight incompletions, resulting in the Boilers settling for a 23-yard Dellinger field goal. With 3:45 left to play, Northwestern lead it’s 24-13.
As with the rest of the game, Northwestern continued its trend of answering Purdue scores. This one was a clock consuming drive of 14 plays for 51 yards, which took six minutes and eleven seconds. The drive was capped off on a 42-yard field goal from Kuhbander to make it 27-13 with 12:34 left to play.
The Boilers ensuing drive started with three straight incomplete passes from O’Connell. Though, on the third, an offsides penalty was called on Northwestern. The next play was a desperation pass from O’Connell to Zander Horvath that was tipped by the defense. However, Horvath was able to corral the pass and take it 17 yards for a first down.
Horvath continued this drive, willing Purdue to first downs. Three plays later, on a 2nd and 20 from their own 37-yard line, O’Connell found Horvath, who made a few defenders miss on his way to a 25 yard gain. This setup Purdue 1st and ten at the Wildcats 38.
Then four plays later, on a 4th and four, O’Connell again found Horvath on a quick pitch. Initially, Horvath was stopped short, though he kept his legs moving after first contact and willed the pile forward for a 6 yard gain and another Boilermaker first down.
Three plays later, Horvath was again picking up another Boilermaker 1st down, this time on a 3rd and one. Then two plays later, O’Connell dropped teardrop in the breadbasket for Milton Wright in the back left corner of the endzone for the TD. This made it 27-20 with 7:35 left to play.
Purdue’s defense answered the call on the ensuing possession for the Wildcats, forcing a three and out. Though the Boiler offense was non-existent after getting the ball back, swiftly exiting the field with a three and out of their own.
The Boiler defense once again came up with the stop they needed to give the offense one last chance at a comeback. O’Connell and the Purdue offense was setup at their own 23-yard line with only 3:05 left to play, trailing by seven.
O’Connell connected with David Bell for a 1st down after an incomplete pass to start the drive. Though, after a 1st down connection with Horvath for three yards, O’Connell overthrew Milton Wright, then took a seven-yard sack, setting up a game-deciding 4th and 14. O’Connell was unable to connect with his intended target, Bell, resulting in a turnover on downs.
Northwestern was able to pick up the one first down they needed on their final possession to seal the game at the Wildcats claim to the Big Ten West’s top spot.
Down the stretch, the Boilermakers’ inability to get the running game going really hurt them, something head coach Jeff Brohm touched on post-game. “We’re going to have to go back and have a little more plethora of runs ready. We thought we could spread them out a little bit, and some of the runs we called, they were playing the pass, with two saftey’s back there deep, and they were still able to knock us back, especially early on.”
He then continued, “It was disappointing like I said, I thought it felt very stale there in the 1st half, they were stuffing us, they were getting after us.”
Purdue now has a quick turnaround, with a Friday night matchup against Minnesota in Minneapolis. While the Wildcats will host the Wisconsin Badgers in an unbeaten showdown for the rights to the top spot in the Big Ten West Saturday, November 21st.
(Image Credit: Purdue Athletics)