No. 23 Northwestern takes down Purdue, 27-20
WEST LAFAYETTE – A closer look at Saturday’s 27-20 loss by Purdue against No. 23 Northwestern at Ross-Ade Stadium:
THE GAME WAS OVER
When the Boilermakers' last-ditch attempt came up short on quarterback Aidan O'Connell's fourth-down pass, which fell incomplete with 1:59 to play. Purdue's defense gave the offense a chance to stage a late comeback but the Boilermakers couldn't take advantage.
The Wildcats won for the fifth-straight time at Ross-Ade Stadium and improved to 4-0 this season.
O’Connell fumbled on the Boilermakers’ second possession of the second half and linebacker Paddy Fisher scooped up the loose ball and rambled for 22 yards.
Five plays later, the Wildcats increased the lead to 24-10 with 7:39 left in the third quarter after Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman caught his third touchdown pass of the game from quarterback Peyton Ramsey.
Although the Boilermakers added a field goal on the next drive and pulled within a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter on O'Connell's 14-yard TD to Milton Wright, Northwestern maintained control.
THE RACE FOR THE WEST
Purdue's opportunity is all but over.
The Wildcats hold an important tiebreaker in the chase for the Big Ten West title and the Boilermakers still must travel to Minnesota and Indiana, along with hosting Rutgers and Nebraska.
It’s still a longshot but Purdue needs help from other teams and probably will have to win out to have a chance.
Wisconsin and Northwestern play next week with the winner becoming the true frontrunner for the title. The Boilermakers needed to win Saturday to control their fate. That’s now over.
WHY PURDUE LOST
The offense became one-dimensional, in part because the Wildcats made the Boilermakers one-dimensional. Northwestern stopped the running game – Purdue had minus 5 yards on the ground in the first half and was a little better in the second half – and coach Jeff Brohm and quarterback Aidan O’Connell kept forcing the ball to David Bell.
Granted, Bell has been tremendous and will enjoy a great career, both in college and in the NFL, but the Wildcats secondary played tight coverage and O’Connell had to be perfect with his throws.
Trying to spread the ball around in the passing game may have opened up more opportunities for others, including Wright and the tight ends. That happened a little bit more in the second half but it was too late.
Rondale Moore didn’t play for the third time this season and this was a game the Boilermakers needed the sophomore receiver.
Purdue struggled on third down because it couldn't generate any yardage on first and second downs.
The Boilermakers' best plays - pass interference penalties against Northwestern defenders going against Bell - or screen passes to running back Zander Horvath, who had nine catches for 100 yards, both career highs. Bell had nine catches for 78 yards.
Purdue’s lone touchdown came on fourth-and-1 from the Northwestern 40-yard line in the second quarter.
O’Connell faked a handoff and redshirt freshman tight end Garrett Miller snuck across the middle. No defender went with the Texas native and O’Connell hit him in stride. Miller raced down the sidelines and into the end zone.
DEFENSE STEPPED UP
Although the Boilermakers gave up a pair of long scoring drives, it gave the ball back to the offense with a chance to tie the score.
Purdue registered 12 tackles for loss and limited the Wildcats to 86 rushing yards.
In a span of six games, Ramsey enjoyed another big performance against the Boilermakers.
The Indiana graduate transfer accounted for five touchdowns in last year’s Old Oaken Bucket victory and had three TD passes Saturday night – all to Chiaokhiao-Bowman. He finished with eight catches for 86 yards.
Ramsey finished 23 of 36 for 212 yards and three touchdowns and one interception.
Mike Carmin covers Purdue sports for the Journal & Courier. Email firstname.lastname@example.org and follow on Twitter @carmin_jc