Rapid Recap: Purdue 24, Northwestern 22

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Rapid Recap: Purdue 24, Northwestern 22

Aidan Smith fights through a tackle.

Aidan Smith fights through a tackle.

Noah Frick-Alofs/Daily Senior Staffer

Aidan Smith fights through a tackle.

Noah Frick-Alofs/Daily Senior Staffer

Noah Frick-Alofs/Daily Senior Staffer

Aidan Smith fights through a tackle.

Benjamin Rosenberg, Web Editor

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Football


It appeared Northwestern’s seemingly eternal losing streak was about to end. Instead, the Wildcats found heartbreak again.

After Charlie Kuhbander hit the left upright on a field goal attempt, Purdue (4-6, 3-4 Big Ten) took over with just over two minutes to play. NU committed three penalties to help the Boilermakers drive the length of the field, and J.D. Dellinger connected on a 39-yard field goal attempt with mere seconds remaining to win 24-22, handing the Wildcats (1-8, 0-7) their seventh straight loss.

NU could not have drawn up a better first quarter. Junior Kyric McGowan lifted an elephant off the team’s back with a 79-yard touchdown run on the Cats’ first offensive series, NU’s first touchdown in over a month. The Cats made it 14-0 later in the quarter, with junior quarterback Aidan Smith finding junior receiver Jace James — after taking a shot as he threw — for a 16-yard touchdown strike.

But the rest of the first half, and the third quarter, were all Purdue, save for an intentional grounding penalty against Aidan O’Connell in the end zone that resulted in a safety. Purdue got on the board with five minutes left in the half on a 12-yard run by King Doerue, and then O’Connell took over after halftime. He was nearly perfect in the third quarter in leading the Boilermakers down the field twice to take the lead.

NU took advantage of a short field to retake the lead early in the fourth, with Smith finding junior receiver Riley Lees in the left corner of the end zone to go up 22-21. The Cats were on their way to extending the lead late in the game with a lengthy drive, but Kuhbander missed on his only field goal attempt and Dellinger nailed the game-winner two minutes later.

Takeaways:

1. Northwestern’s offense finally showed some life. The Wildcats were dominant in the first quarter, starting with McGowan’s 79-yard burst up the middle. The second drive was more methodical but just as impressive, an 83-yard march that ended in Smith’s first touchdown pass since September. NU compiled 257 offensive yards in the first half, one shy of its per-game average for the season.

2. The secondary continued to struggle. O’Connell began the season third on Purdue’s quarterback depth chart, but he picked apart the Cats’ secondary at times, particularly on a pair of touchdown drives in the third quarter, when he was 12-of-13 for 101 yards and two scoring passes. The Boilermakers targeted receiver David Bell repeatedly, and while sophomore cornerback Cameron Ruiz did a decent job on him, the pass coverage as a whole left a lot to be desired.

3. Aidan Smith had his best game as the starter. The junior had an up-and-down performance, throwing two touchdowns but also missing a number of key throws. In the end, he could not do enough to help NU eek out its first win since mid-September, finishing with 194 yards to go with two touchdowns and an interception. Although both Smith and Hunter Johnson saw the field last week at Indiana, Smith played the entirety of Saturday’s game, likely buoyed by his strong first half performance.

Email: benjaminrosenberg2021@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @bxrosenberg

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