Purdue handily defeated the Northwestern Wildcats at the iconic Wrigley Field this afternoon, winning by a final score of 32-14.
The Boilermakers headed north after an embarrassing loss last weekend against Ohio State and responded tremendously. This game wasn’t the prettiest or the cleanest, but all things considered, the Boilermakers got the job done. Every win is a good win.
Things started very slow on each side with missed/blocked field goals, punts, and just an overall lack of offense. It had the same feeling as the Illinois game, where it wouldn’t have been shocking to be in a low-scoring dog fight all day.
A lot of the lack of offense early can be contributed to the horrible field conditions at Wrigley Field. We know those grounds crews have a tough job and work extremely hard to flip the field, but it was a mess by the end of the first quarter. You had guys slipping and sliding around like it was a rain game. If Purdue is selected to play in either Yankee Stadium or Chase Field for their bowl game, let’s hope those conditions are significantly better than today’s.
Purdue and Northwestern then got things moving a bit on both sides late in the first half, exchanging touchdowns in the last two minutes of the half. After the break, Purdue looked like the team it has been for much of the season. Back-to-back long touchdown throws in the third quarter essentially iced this game for the Boilermakers.
The defense, albeit against a much worse opponent, made a huge improvement over last week’s trampling at the hands of Ohio State. The Wildcats were held to 303 total yards on the day, and aside from their two scoring drives could not muster anything all game. Purdue’s front seven asserted their dominance early and never let off the gas. Led by George Karlaftis, Purdue’s defense had 8 tackles for loss on the day and forced the four sacks in a row in the fourth quarter to keep the game out of reach for Northwestern.
It has become a pretty weekly occurrence at this point, but Aidan O’Connell had himself yet another outstanding performance for the Boilermakers. He finished the afternoon with 423 yards on 29-39 passing and three touchdown passes as well. After everything that was said, the struggles he’s had and his story, it has been something special to see his rise to one of the better signal-callers in the conference and lead Purdue to their best season in almost a decade right now.
You also cannot go without mentioning the career day for junior wide receiver Milton Wright III. This guy has been overshadowed by the likes of Rondale Moore and David Bell since he stepped on campus but has quietly been one of the driving forces behind the Boilermakers’ offense for a couple of years now. He is Purdue’s second-leading receiver behind the aforementioned Bell with a line of 679 yards on 51 catches and now 6 touchdowns on the season. It would not be surprising to see an even better output next season with the void that David Bell will leave when he darts for the NFL (as he should.)
Today’s win guaranteed a winning season for the Boilermakers for only the second time in Jeff Brohm’s Purdue career. In years past, this was a game where it felt like Purdue would have let a bad Northwestern team hang around a little too long and possibly lose. Now, the Boilermakers were able to take care of business and get the hell out of Chicago with an 18 point win.
It is hard to put into words how much this season has meant to the program and Jeff Brohm coming off of three straight uninspiring season’s which left Brohm on the hot seat for many fans. Purdue has been waiting for this turnaround for a while now and it is finally coming to fruition.
This leaves the final game of the season for the Old Oaken Bucket against Indiana next Saturday in Ross-Ade Stadium. It will be important for the Boilermakers to not overlook the 2-8 Hoosiers and come ready to take back the state. This year, the expectation should be a Joe Tiller-like routing of the worst team in the conference, but nothing is guaranteed in a bitter rivalry game. Purdue hosts Indiana next weekend at 3:30 pm and will look to lock up their first 8 win season since 2007!