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

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

The Daily Northwestern


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Rapid Recap: Northwestern 23, Purdue 15

Northwestern+defensive+players+tackle+a+Purdue+rusher.+NUs+defense+forced+two+turnovers+in+the+Saturday+win.
Micah Sandy/Daily Senior Staffer
Northwestern defensive players tackle a Purdue rusher. NU’s defense forced two turnovers in the Saturday win.

After an eventful past seven days for Northwestern’s football program that celebrated the removal of coach David Braun’s interim tag and its first away win since August 2022, the Wildcats (6-5, 4-4 Big Ten) continued their high on Saturday against Purdue (3-8, 2-6 Big Ten).

The ‘Cats meant business early, scoring on their first offensive possession of the game highlighted by sixth-year quarterback Ben Bryant’s connection to senior wideout A.J. Henning for 35 yards. 

Although both teams went silent after the touchdown drive for the rest of the half, the electricity picked back up in the third quarter as NU scored 10 points to Purdue’s seven.  

The ‘Cats continued to build on their lead in the fourth quarter following senior running back Cam Porter’s 34-yard rushing touchdown. However, the Boilermakers punched back with a touchdown and two-point conversion with nearly three minutes remaining, cutting NU’s lead to eight, and getting the ball back with two minutes to go. 

But senior linebacker Xander Mueller stopped Browne and company in their tracks, intercepting the quarterback with 21 seconds remaining and sliding into victory and its first bowl game since 2020.

Here are five takeaways in what was possibly the final game at Ryan Field.

TAKEAWAYS:

1. NU gradually adjusts to Purdue’s run-heavy offense

Just two hours before Saturday’s affair, Purdue starting quarterback Hudson Card was ruled out, according to ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg.

And with two quarterbacks in Bennett Meredith and Ryan Browne who have combined for two passes this season in line to rotate throughout the game, the Boilermakers made rushing a priority. Purdue ran the ball 29 times to just seven passes in the first half. By the end of the contest, the Boilermakers finished with 54 carries and 303 yards — the most yards NU has given up in a game this season

Purdue’s effectiveness on the ground derived from a three-man look between rushers Tyrone Tracy Jr., Devin Mockobee and Browne. 

With Tracy and Mockobee’s multiple broken tackles and big plays balanced by Browne’s scramble ability, it gave NU’s defense problems all day.

2. When in doubt, the ‘Cats red zone defense will help you out

Browne’s griddy-like celebration in the second quarter capped what seemed to be his first collegiate touchdown and the Boilermakers’ first points of the game.

Seconds later though, Browne’s touchdown was overturned, placing Purdue at NU’s one-yard line on second down. 

However, that was enough space for Braun’s defense to lock in and get the job done. 

The ‘Cats didn’t budge once, swarming Purdue with black and purple jerseys each play. By the end of the exhilarating fourth-down stop, the Boilermakers hadn’t rummaged up even one yard. 

The stop held even more weight than just keeping Purdue off the scoreboard, it was their second straight drive where they forced Boilermakers to turn it over on downs. Last time, it was on NU’s 15-yard line. The possession before that, the ‘Cats stopped Purdue at their own 27-yard line following a missed field goal.

By halftime, Purdue was still scoreless. 

3. NU’s offensive line takes a stepback in the first half, bounces back in second half

With Bryant returning to the gridiron against Wisconsin, the ‘Cats offensive line play would be key. Not only for the quarterback’s safety, but to help Bryant find his groove.

Yet, after accomplishing that mission against the Badgers, Bryant’s security guards struggled to protect him versus Purdue. In comparison to getting sacked once last Saturday, the quarterback was sacked five times in the first half.

The pressure Bryant faced took a toll on the entire offense’s productivity. It limited the rushing attack’s contributions on drives and gave Bryant little time to hit his targets. NU netted  negative 13 yards in the second quarter.

The ‘Cats’ woes truly showed its head after senior defensive back Garnett Hollis Jr.’s interception that placed the offense on Purdue’s 20-yard line. During the drive, Bryant was sacked five yards while senior kicker Jack Olsen missed a 38-yard field goal attempt. 

Yet, the bunch turned a new leaf in the second half, giving up zero sacks. And the group’s proved to be major by the game’s end, as the offense scored 17 in the last 30 minutes of play.

4. ‘Cats continue to make it rain in the turnover margin category

Following senior defensive back Rod Heard II’s forced fumble against Wisconsin, on Monday,  Braun praised his staff and players for the emphasis on the team’s security and disruption circuits in practice and how they’ve transferred over into the game. Entering Saturday, NU was plus-five in the turnover margin.

Well, make it seven. 

The ‘Cats were flying around on both defense and special teams throughout the contest. The turnover festivities nearly began when junior defensive lineman Carmine Bastone’s blindside hit on Browne jarred the ball loose in the first quarter, but it was recovered by Purdue. 

However, NU was successful on its second chance in the second quarter behind the Boilermakers miscommunication on a handoff between Meredith and Tracy that was recovered by graduate student defensive lineman Richie Hagarty. And minutes later, the ‘Cats weren’t done, or at least Hollis wasn’t. The senior read Browne like a book, picking him off on the first play of Purdue’s next possession.    

Senior linebacker Greyson Metz and the special teams unit got in on the action in the third quarter, trampling on T.J. Sheffield’s muffed punt. The takeaway led to Olsen’s first field goal of the game.  

5. Party like it’s…2020? The ‘Cats are going to a bowl game 

For the first time since the 2020 season, NU will play another game after its regular season finale against Illinois next week. The ‘Cats eight-point victory upped their win total to six — the required number for FBS teams to become bowl eligible.

For a team that won a combined four games in 2021 and 2022, welcomed in a new head coach and started the season with only 103 players on roster during fall camp, this year has unquestionably become a success.

Of course, Braun and his group will direct their eyes toward the Land of Lincoln trophy before awaiting its bowl destination. But for NU fans, let the celebrations commence.

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @LPIII_TRES

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