Final score: No. 23 Northwestern 27 Purdue 20

Quick recap: The Wildcats did it again. Northwestern improved to 4-0 on Saturday with an impressive road win against Purdue. The formula seemed similar to the Wildcats’ first three wins. The offense does just enough throughout the game while the defense puts the clamps down in the second half and limits opponents’ scoring while also forcing some timely turnovers. Northwestern took the lead late in the first half at 17-10 and built that lead. Purdue did finally crack a Wildcat defense that had yet to allow a point in the second half this season as the Boilermakers attempted a comeback with 10 second-half points. But Northwestern’s defense and methodical offensive attack proved to be too much.

Key moment: On its first drive of the second half, Purdue’s offense was trying to even things back up against the Wildcats. On third-and-nine inside at the Purdue 36, Boilermaker quarterback Aidan O’Connell attempted to pick up the first down on the ground. While running, O’Connell was stripped of the ball by Eku Leota. Linebacker Paddy Fisher picked up the fumble and rumbled to the Purdue 18 yard line. Five plays later, Northwestern scored to make it 24-10. From there, the Wildcat lead never got to less than seven points.

Key player: If you were to pick a wide receiver that would be most important before this game, the obvious choice would be Purdue wideout David Bell. That proved to not be the case, however. The wide receiver that stole the show was Northwestern’s Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman. He nabbed three touchdowns for the Wildcats. He finished the day with 8 catches for 86 yards. Prior to this game, Chiaokhiao-Bowman had just 11 catches for 106 yards and no touchdowns.

Key stat: Purdue’s running attack was basically non-existent Saturday as the Boilermakers finished with 2 total yards on the ground. Purdue running back Zander Horvath was way more of a force in the passing attack than in the running game. Horvath finished with 21 rushing yards while catching 9 passes for 100 yards.

What it means for Northwestern (4-0): This game was going to go a long way in who would be competing with Wisconsin for the Big Ten West crown. With this win, it appears as if it may be a race between the Wildcats and Badgers for the division title. Northwestern hasn’t looked spectacular in 2020, but the Wildcats have done enough as their defense has played quite well in the second halves of games and come away with timely turnovers. Offensively, Northwestern is finding its usual success on the ground. One thing that was encouraging for Wildcat fans was the emergence of wide receiver Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman. We’ll see if he can replicate that performance in next week’s mega showdown against Wisconsin in Evanston.

What it means for Purdue (2-1): This is not the end of the world for Purdue, but it shows that the Boilermakers still have some flaws. Purdue’s passing attack was a nice story through two games and continues to be a strength. But the rushing attack leaves a lot to be desired. Northwestern basically eliminated the run game as an option for the Boilermakers, which certainly slowed the passing attack. There’s still a lot to like for Purdue. If Aidan O’Connell doesn’t fumble that ball early in the second half, we may be talking about a much different game. Good news for the Boilermakers is it appears they have a soft landing spot next week as they head to Minneapolis to take a struggling Gopher squad.