Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Breaking out in a big way: NU 48, Purdue 26

Northwestern’s offense had its biggest game of the season – and didn’t score in the first quarter.

Wideout Eric Peterman had a passing touchdown and a receiving touchdown – in less than four minutes. Quarterback C.J Bachér had so many carries, he began to look like the second coming of Vince Young.

This game was full of surprises. And the biggest surprise was the beating NU and its offense put on Purdue.

Behind monster games from Peterman and running back Tyrell Sutton, the Wildcats scored a season-high 24 points in the second quarter and never looked back, overcoming the loss of senior linebacker Malcolm Arrington to bury the Boilermakers (2-5, 0-3 Big Ten) 48-26.

Coach Pat Fitzgerald praised his squad for bouncing back after last week’s loss to Michigan State.

“Life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you respond,” he said. “I thought we responded pretty well today.”

As the second quarter began, the Cats (6-1, 2-1) were still looking for someone to make a big play. Then Peterman took a wide receiver screen and went the distance, spinning away from Purdue safety Dwight Mclean and outrunning two other Boilermakers to the end zone.

The 45-yard touchdown gave NU a 7-6 lead, and after the defense forced Purdue to punt, Bachér led the offense back up the field.

But the senior quarterback was only peripherally involved in NU’s second touchdown, which came on the team’s most successful trick play of the season. Sutton took a handoff and flipped it back to Peterman, and the former high school quarterback found a wide-open Sidney Stewart in the end zone for a 14-6 lead.

“It was a lot of fun, going back to the glory days when I was a high school quarterback,” Peterman said. “It was a great call at a great time.”

While the offense racked up the points, the defense overcame the loss of Arrington, who fell to the turf clutching his left knee after a carry by Purdue senior running back Kory Sheets late in the first quarter.

Sophomore Nate Williams filled in for Arrington, whose status was still unknown after the game. But safety Brad Phillips said filling the void left by the senior linebacker was a team effort.

“I don’t know if we really rallied around (the injury),” he said. “Everyone just stepped up their game, knowing he’s not in.”

Even without Arrington, the Cats hounded the Purdue offense all day, wreaking havoc on two different quarterbacks.

After starter Curtis Painter was benched in the second quarter, backup quarterback Joey Elliott fumbled his first snap, and Cats’ linebacker Prince Kwateng fell on the ball at the Boilermakers’ nine-yard line.

The fumble was the first of NU’s five takeaways, matching a season-high set against Iowa three weeks ago.

“(Turnovers) are the No. 1 stat that I think correlates to victory,” Fitzgerald said. “You win the turnover ratio, you’ve got a great opportunity to win the football game.”

Three plays later, Villarreal booted a 26-yard field goal, and the Cats had a 17-6 lead over the shell-shocked Boilermakers. NU had reeled off 17 unanswered points in just over four minutes, more points than they had previously scored in any quarter this season.

After a Sheets’ touchdown run cut the NU lead to 17-12, Bachér executed a flawless two-minute drill, driving the Cats 57 yards in just 54 seconds. Sutton’s first touchdown since Southern Illinois – a nine-yard reception from a scrambling Bachér – sent NU into the locker room with its largest halftime lead in a Big Ten game since 2006.

“Before the play, Tyrell told me he’d get open if no one was open,” Bachér said. “I found him over the middle, and it was a great play by him.”

In the second half, the Cats relied on a heavy dose of Sutton to put the game out of reach. The senior tailback converted two critical third-and-long plays on wide receiver screens on his way to 158 all-purpose yards.

Bachér, meanwhile, kept himself busy with a series of quarterback scrambles and designed draws. He finished with a career-high 15 rushes for 41 yards.

“We knew their ends would chase hard when we trying to run one up the middle to Tyrell,” he said. “So I knew I’d have to run the ball a little bit today, and the offensive line did a really great job of opening up holes.”

Beyond the explosion of points, the Cats showed a maturity not seen in recent years in bouncing back from last week’s loss and the early deficit.

“I think we proved that we’re a lot more mature than we’ve been in recent years,” Sutton said. “Any given time last year, we had losses and we were sulking about it. The leadership on this time has just done a tremendous job the past eight, nine months of preparing everyone for the season.”

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Breaking out in a big way: NU 48, Purdue 26