With Northwestern leading 27-12 in the third quarter, the Wildcats decided to quit toying with Purdue and effectively end the game. With Purdue backed up in a 2nd and 12, Quentin Davie sacked Curtis Painter to force a third and long. On the next play, DE Corey Wootton spun inside and pancaked Painter, forcing a wounded duck that was picked off. Three plays later, Bacher notched his third TD pass on a route where the Wildcats flooded the right side with three wide receivers, a perfect play call on first and goal on the 1. Game over, flip flip flip.
These five or so plays can tell you anything you need to know about Northwestern's dominance over Purdue. The Wildcat offense ran their various offensive sets soundly, with a mix of quarterback draws, inside hand offs, and of course the bread and butter precision passing. The Wildcat offense was led by an efficient passing day from Bacher (who showed great elusiveness and even ran for 40 yards) and a "Game Ball" performance by the offensive line. Here's what Lake the Posts, a NW blogger, said about the Wildcat O-Line:
Our OL was the "giant question mark" heading into the season as we are very inexperienced with both RS Fr and people in new positions. However, we're top 10 in the nation in least sacks allowed and have given amazing pass protection. Our interior ability to create seams for Sutton has been the weak link. (Their performance has been) overwhelmingly positive so far this year...
Talking about the offensive line isn't sexy, but the NW O-Line was so dominant that it needs to discussed. Two frosh, Ben Burkett and TE Cameron Joplin, made key downfield blocks on screen passes; the Wildcats screened all day and on every down. If NW can keep this offensive efficiency going, games against Minnesota and Illinois will be even more winnable. Weaknesses? Well, until Peterman somehow broke free for a long touchdown on a screen pass, the commentators were sort of making fun of the NW receiving corps. They didn't go so far as comparing them to intramural players, but instead said things like "boy it would be nice if the receivers could break tackles." And they have a point; the receivers are supposed to essentially catch three yard passes and dive forward - these aren't exactly five star recruits. (I don't think? LTP help).
Purdue: Sheets broke a long one for a touch and found holes in the middle all day. Painter looked out of sync, but he does lack playmakers at WR, or even people who can catch the ball 80% of the time. The Purdue "basketball on grass" has evolved into the "whip a bullet at a wide receiver four yards away and watch the ball glance off his hands for a pick." The Boilermaker's winless Big 10 season is probably harder to take for the West Lafayette fans because unlike their losing counterparts in Ann Arbor, this team had expectations.