Rapid Reaction: Purdue carries B1G West hopes into Week 13 with gritty win over Northwestern
Final Score: Purdue 17, Northwestern 9
Brief Recap: At this point in the season, the theme for teams competing for a divisional title is similar to teams playing in March Madness. “Survive and advance.” While analysts may say the College Football Playoff Committee cares about style points, all that really matters with a division on the line is getting a win.
That’s good news for Purdue, a team that looked far from great in Week 12 against Northwestern. Fortunately, the Boilermakers did enough to come away with the win.
Heading into halftime, it looked like Purdue might cruise to an easy win against the Wildcats. The Boilermakers used touchdowns from Charlie Jones and Payne Durham to build a 14-3 lead at the break. However, the team was more sluggish in the second half.
In this game, it was the passing attack by Purdue that was effectively limited. Some of the credit does go to Northwestern for a spirited effort from the defense. However, a big reason for the limited passing attack on both sides has to deal with the near-frigid conditions in West Lafayette and throughout the B1G on Saturday.
As for the game remaining close until the end, part of that can be attributed to Jalen Graham. In the second half, Graham had a brilliant pick of Cole Freeman and rolled all the way back for a touchdown.
Unfortunately, Graham would be called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for high-stepping more than 20 yards away from the end zone. That penalty wiped away a touchdown that would have given the Boilermakers a rather commanding lead.
Even then, Purdue was able to do just enough on the ground to grind out the game and eat up the clock for the win, and to keep hopes in the B1G West alive.
Key Player: Dylan Downing and Kobe Lewis. Lewis was much more effective on the afternoon with 3.8 yards per carry, but both were pivotal.
Star running back Devin Mockobee was banged up and left the action early. After filling in for Mockobee, Lewis and Downing filled the void with 28 carries for 91 yards to help pace the offense in unfavorable conditions.
Key Statistic: 3, takeaways for the Purdue defense. While Graham was tagged for the penalty, his interception did stand and was a big turnover by the Wildcats. The Boilermakers also produced 2 fumbles to give them a +3 turnover margin against Northwestern. That type of defensive performance made the difference.
What it means moving forward: The Boilermakers still have a shot to make it to Indianapolis, and that’s all that really matters for Jeff Brohm’s squad. Purdue will happily take an ugly win at this point of the season, provided it’s a win.
For Pat Fitzgerald and Northwestern, the 2022 season continues to roll on in ugly fashion. The Wildcats are now 1-10 and will be thankful to see this year come to an end in Week 13.