Post-Game Analysis: Purdue
by Jonathan Hodges
Northwestern (3-2, 1-1) notched its first Big Ten win of the 2009 season and
held on to win against Purdue (1-4, 0-1) by a final score of 27-21. After allowing Purdue to score touchdowns on their
first three possessions, the Northwestern defense came up with some big
turnovers as the 'Cats clawed their way back, taking the lead with just over two
minutes to play. Although Purdue drove down the field and had a first and goal
with a chance to win, the NU defense held on for the win, forcing two
incompletions on third and fourth down to seal the win.
started off on the wrong foot, with RB Arby Fields fumbling on the 'Cats' first
play from scrimmage, which the Boilermakers subsequently turned into a
touchdown. Northwestern responded with a long 20 play, 78 yard drive, but
couldn't punch it in and had to settle for a short field goal to cut the Purdue
lead to four.
After that, though, NU's defensive problems continued as
Purdue had two 70-plus yard drives for touchdowns that were marred by missed
Wildcat tackles, allowing the Boilers to take a 21-3 lead early in the second
quarter. Things looked grim for NU, but the Wildcats would find a way to get
back into the game.
NU went on another 20 play drive covering 72 yards
and had a fourth and goal at about the one yard line, but the 'Cats couldn't
punch it in and turned the ball over on downs. Ironically, that's when things
started to go right for the Wildcats, with just over two minutes left in the
On the very next play, Purdue QB Joey Elliot threw an
interception out of the end zone to Sherrick McManis as he made a nice break on
the football. That set up NU for a short 18 yard drive capped off by an Arby
Fields touchdown run.
On the ensuing kickoff, the ball was fumbled with
Northwestern recovering, allowing the 'Cats to take over at the Purdue 23 yard
line and kick a field goal to cut the lead to eight.
Then, after fielding
the kickoff cleanly, RB Jaycen Taylor fumbled at the 24 yard line and NU
recovered again, allowing the Wildcats to drive and kick another field goal to
reduce their halftime deficit to just five. Purdue wisely kneeled to run out
the clock and end the first half.
So, after Purdue had a 21-3 lead and
the ball with just over two minutes to play, they turned over the football on
three of the next four times they touched the ball, and NU cut into the lead and
went into halftime with a 21-16 score.
Northwestern scored the only
points of the third quarter on a field goal that followed a brilliantly executed
punt by Stefan Demos that hit a Purdue gunner on the hand and was subsequently
recovered by NU.
The turning point of the game came with Purdue driving
and the clock winding as Joey Elliot was sacked and stripped at the NU 28 yard
line, with the Wildcats recovering and tallying their sixth takeaway of the
QB Mike Kafka would then lead NU on the go-ahead 11 play, 67 yard
drive that was capped off with a QB keeper for the touchdown. The Wildcats went
for two in order to extend their new-found lead to eight, and were successful
with a two point conversion toss to Drake Dunsmore, even after suffering a five
Although NU had solid kick coverage and forced Purdue to
take over at their own 16 on the kickoff, the Boilers drove down the field and
had first and goal on the NU seven. But, the Wildcats' defense held and NU came
up with a potential turnaround win of the season, with the 'Cats winning their
third consecutive Big Ten road game.
Player of the
NU P/K Stefan Demos (4-of-4 FG, 1-of-1 XP, 7 kickoffs for
61.7 yards per kick, 4 punts for 31.2 yards per punt with one recovered by
NU) Although he didn't nail a game-winning field goal, his consistent play
during the game and one precise punt got the 'Cats back into a game that they
trailed early. Even with NU failing to punch it in for a touchdown on multiple
occasions, Demos did his job and put points on the board. And there was that
perfectly placed punt that hit a Purdue player, allowing NU to recover and put
points on the board.
QB Mike Kafka (28-of-44 passing for 224 yards, 18
carries for 39 yards and 1 TD) The most important thing that Kafka did
today doesn't appear in his stat line, and that is zero turnovers. Although
Kafka missed some open receivers and didn't finish the day with a TD pass, he
led NU on a game-winning drive and protected the football, something the 'Cats
had major problems with over the last two weeks.
Run Defense: The
'Cats' D had one of their best performances of the year, holding Purdue
scoreless for the final 40 minutes of the game and keeping RB Ralph Bolden well
contained as he finished with just 53 yards on the ground. At the end of the
day, Purdue had just 2.2 yards per carry, and even after removing NU's three
sacks, the Boilers averaged below three yards per carry.
Red Zone Offense: The Wildcats were 6-of-7 in the red
zone, but four of those scores were field goals, meaning that NU left a lot of
points on the field (and, there was the fruitless trip to the doorstep of the
end zone). Some can be attributed to play calling and some can be attributed to
Kafka missing open receivers, but NU needs to convert more scoring chances for
touchdowns to survive games where they don't get six
Defense: Although the run defense was very much
improved, NU still yielded a total of 375 yards and relied on turnovers to stop
the Purdue offense. They came out flat (Purdue scored on its first three
drives) and missed tackles (see Aaron Valentin's 67 yard TD catch and run)
early, but thankfully had enough left in the tank to stop the Boilers at the end
when it mattered most. The Wildcat D will have to continue looking like it did
for the final 40 minutes of the game, which was diametrically opposite of what
was seen through the first 20 minutes.
Time of Possession: The 'Cats went on two 20
play drives in the first half (yielding just three points total) and ate up a
ton of clock, giving them 21:59 of first half time of possession (leaving just
8:01 for Purdue). Things evened out a bit in the second half, but NU still
ended the day with almost 36 minutes of possession, although the 'Cats would
likely have rather seen touchdowns instead of field goals as the result of some
of those drives.
Turnovers: One can't talk about this game without
bringing up the turnovers. NU came into the game with only seven takeaways on
the season and almost doubled that number with six on the day. In last year's
meeting between these two teams, the Wildcats racked up five takeaways, although
they capitalized on the errors a little more, running away with the
Running Game: Even with both Fields and Kafka running for
touchdowns, the Wildcats averaged a measly 2.6 yards per carry (with sacks
removed). NU admittedly is a bit thin on running backs, with Stephen Simmons
and Scott Concannon unavailable for the game (Alex Daniel is also out for the
year), forcing the 'Cats to rely on true freshman Fields and former walk-on
Jacob Schmidt. Even so, the offensive line hasn't exactly opened gaping holes
for the running backs to utilize.
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