Go ahead and erase the idea that Northwestern won’t be able to run the football without Justin Jackson occupying the backfield.

If you just flipped the television on to ESPN for Thursday night’s B1G West showdown between Northwestern and Purdue, you might’ve thought Jackson was actually still toting the ball for the Wildcats. But who you mistakenly took as the record-setting ball-carrier was redshirt sophomore Jeremy Larkin.

After watching his performance against the Boilermakers defense, he might just set some records in his career, as well.

Larkin was a bell cow for the Wildcats in the season opener, rushing for 143 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries. He also caught four passes for 20 yards for the evening.

In his first game as the No. 1 option in the backfield, Larkin was the primary reason the Northwestern offense was able to keep the chains moving.

He ran fast and he was elusive. He was powerful and hard to tackle. He was everything you wanted out of your primarily ball-carrier. And, at times, he embarrassed the Purdue defense.

Sounds a lot like his predecessor, doesn’t it?

Larkin benefited from playing a young and inexperienced defense in the first game of the season. The Boilermakers lost most of its defensive starters from a year ago, and most of the youth can be found up front.

Then again, this was Larkin’s first big-time moment too, and he didn’t have any trouble delivering.

At times, Larkin was the focal point of the offense on Thursday night. Like when he broke free in the first quarter for a 46-yard gain, putting Northwestern inside the red zone and leading to a touchdown drive that put the Wildcats ahead 14-0 early.

Or when he ran the ball on five straight plays, beginning at the Purdue 30 yard-line. He added all 30 of those yards to his stat total on the way to his second touchdown to give Northwestern a 31-17 lead headed into halftime.

At other junctures in the game, Larkin had trouble escaping the Purdue defense. On a few occasions, the sophomore was drilled in the backfield, unable to gain any traction. And on a critical third down play at the end of the game, he traveled backwards quickly when Northwestern needed a first down to ice the victory.

Fortunately, Purdue defensive lineman Lorenzo Neal made a bonehead decision, throwing Larkin to the ground after the whistle, warranting a 15-yard penalty and sealing the win for Northwestern.

The point?

Larkin wasn’t perfect. His first half performance was much more impressive than the final two quarters of the season opener. But this kid is the whole package, and he’s got the ability to pick up where Jackson left off.

Purdue isn’t close to the best defense Larkin will see this season. There will probably be some rough outings ahead. But the sophomore proved he can fill those record-setting shoes his predecessor left behind. And Northwestern proved it can run the football after Jackson’s departure.

Larkin has already left his footprints all over the Purdue defense.