West Lafayette, IN – The Purdue Boilermakers came into the game with a lot of momentum. They soon got punched in the mouth by a veteran Northwestern Wildcats team and before you could blink it was 14-0. Just like that all the momentum and excitement was sucked out of Ross-Ade stadium before the fans even got settled in their seats.
It didn’t take long though for Purdue to bounce back and get right back in the game. While the 14 points that Northwestern scored was fast. Purdue rattled off the next 14 points even faster. All 14 points came at the hands of freshman sensation Rondale Moore. First it was 32 yard touchdown pass from Elijah Sindelar. The second was on a jet sweep to Moore where he made an insane jump cut and just out ran everyone on the field for a 76 yard score. In the first half alone Moore had 302 all purpose yards. He would finish the game with 313 and break the single game Purdue all time record for all purpose yards.
The downside for the Boilers in the first half was Sindelar. While he made some great throws to find receivers down field, he also found the white jerseys of Northwestern three different times. One wasn’t his fault but two absolutely were and the third resulted in him getting benched. Northwestern didn’t turn the ball over at all and it is tough to win football games when you lose the turnover battle by three.
At halftime the score was 31-17 and Northwestern was rolling. The Purdue defense couldn’t make tackles and was continually putting themselves in bad positions. Of course some of that was the offense’s fault. The second half was a different story however. Purdue’s defense stiffened and pitched a shutout in the second half. While Northwestern’s Jeremy Larkin finished the game with 143 yards on 26 attempts and two scores a lot of that came in the first half.
With the defense stepping up in the second half, Purdue quarterback David Blough was able to make some things happen by leading two scoring drives in the half to get the Boilers back within four. The defense continued to make plays but in the 4th quarter the offense sputtered to a screeching halt. With Blough the downfield passing game was pretty much an afterthought. The defense however kept making plays.
After Purdue had burned all their timeouts, they had to get one final stop on 3rd and 10 from the Purdue 33 yard line to make Northwestern at least think about a field goal attempt or pinning Purdue deep. They get the stop and the whistle blows. After the whistle blows, while excited about making the stop, Purdue defensive tackle Lorenzo Neal throws Jeremy Larkin to the ground resulting in a personal foul call and allowed Northwestern to just kneel out the clock.
This is a painful way for Purdue to lose. Losing the turnover battle three to zero and ending the game on a boneheaded penalty was not how they wanted to start the season. They now sit 0-1 on the season and 0-1 in conference play. This is a game when looking at the final stats Purdue realistically could have won and probably should have. You just can’t shoot yourself in the foot over and over again and expect positive results. The three picks all led to scoring drives for Northwestern and while Purdue’s high powered offense kept them in the game, it just wasn’t enough against a veteran team like the Wildcats.
Purdue now looks to right the ship next week at home against Eastern Michigan back at Ross-Ade. Questions will remain about the starting quarterback role. Sindelar won the role in camp but literally threw it away in the first half. Blough while made some things happen with his legs, brought the offense to a halt when he couldn’t make downfield throws. Defensively you need to find a way to get pressure on the quarterback. Purdue finished the game without a single sack.
The season is far from over. There are 11 more games on the schedule. Purdue’s goal this season is to get better as team and find a way to get back to a bowl game. They are a young and inexperienced team that is going to make mistakes. Head coach Jeff Brohm said in his post game press conference that the defense “didn’t try very hard in the first half”. Sometimes a loss in week one allow the coaches to light a fire in the team. Only time will tell but the train is currently stuck at the station.
Nick Konkel is the Purdue Boilermakers beat writer for Indiana Sports Report. You can follow him on Twitter @NickKonkelISR and Indiana Sports Report @IndySportsRep