Final score: No. 25 Northwestern 23 Purdue 13
Purdue did what it needed to defensively to give itself a chance to pull off an upset in Evanston. Justin Jackson was held under 50 rushing yards and Clayton Thorson’s completion percentage hovered around 50 percent. But Northwestern’s defense played pretty well, too. And, in the end, it was the Wildcats that made enough plays to get the win.
Northwestern was in bend-but-don’t-break mode. On a few occasions, the Boilermakers pieced together a nice drive and were knocking on the door of getting some points on the scoreboard. But a missed field goal and turning the ball over on downs three times was really costly in such a low-scoring affair.
Clayton Thorson still threw for nearly 300 yards and used his feet to get to the end zone, as well. He made a few more plays on Saturday night, helping the Wildcats get to 7-3 on the year.
Key play: Bennett Skowronek’s touchdown catch in the second quarter
It was a remarkable catch by the Northwestern receiver, and it gave the Wildcats a 14-0 lead before heading into halftime. But the reason the play was really a difference-maker was because of the situation.
The completion came on third down and Purdue appeared to have everything else covered. If Northwestern doesn’t convert on that play, they’ll like settle for a field goal and it’d be just a one-score game in the final moments of the fourth quarter. That catch, and the additional four points that came with it, were huge.
Stat of the game: Purdue’s 40 rushing yards
Low rushing totals have been somewhat of a trend in Week 11. Purdue couldn’t avoid a poor day running the football, either.
Running the football is essential in the B1G, especially in November. Maybe you don’t have to put up 250 yards, but averaging 1.8 yards per carry isn’t going to get the job done, at least against a quality opponent.
Northwestern did a good job of taking that aspect of the game away. Purdue was forced to throw frequently and couldn’t keep the defense off balance.
What it means
After the 2-3 start to the season, Northwestern is exactly where we thought it would be. The Wildcats are sitting at second in the B1G West, are a lower-end Top 25 team and can challenge for a quality bowl bid. Maybe they’re not quite as close to that division title as we expected, but they’re still enjoying a nice season.
This is a program that has recovered nicely since that lopsided loss at Duke. Despite some inconsistencies throughout the season, the Wildcats are now winners of five straight and have the potential to finish the year with a 9-3 mark.
Purdue is now on the verge of being eliminated from bowl eligibility. To get in, the Boilermakers must win their final two games, which would mean victories over Iowa and Indiana.