Purdue’s Rondale Moore stole the show. The Northwestern Wildcats stole the game.
While Moore spent his true freshman debut setting a new Boilermaker record for all-purpose yards, the Wildcats managed to eke out a 31-27 season-opening win at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette, Ind.
Northwestern (1-0, 1-0 in Big Ten action) won its ninth straight game (the longest active streak among Power 5 schools), dating back to last season. And, in the process, may have found a true successor to running back Justin Jackson.
Jeremy Larkin, who spent last season backing Jackson up, assumed the lead role for the first time since Jackson’s departure and didn’t disappoint, rushing for a career-high 143 yards and scoring two touchdowns to lead the Wildcats on the ground. It was the perfect building block after rushing for 112 yards in the Music City Bowl to end last season.
Quarterback Clayton Thorsen started his 40th straight game for the Wildcats and became the first Wildcat to start all four season openers. He was effective enough, throwing for 172 yards on 16 completions, but he ceded some of his playing time to T.J. Green. He threw for 63 yards and handed some key snaps in the fourth quarter as the Wildcats worked to finish off the Boilermakers.
Linebacker Blake Ballagher set a career high in tackles with 8 and head coach Pat Fitzgerald improved to 11-2 in season openers.
But, if you missed video of Moore’s debut with the Boilermakers (0-1, 0-1), go find some.
The true freshman ended the night with 313 all-purpose yards, breaking the record of 312 yards set by Otis Armstrong in 1972. Incredibly, that included 302 of those yards coming in the first half. A 32-yard touchdown reception and a 76-yard touchdown run helped push Moore to heights no one could have predicted at kickoff.
Purdue started Elijah Sindelar at quarterback and he struggled, though he did throw the touchdown pass to Moore. Sindelar ended up with 196 yards passing and three interceptions. He gave way to David Blough, the more experienced quarterback, late in the first half. Blough ended up throwing for 74 yards, but could only lead the Boilermakers to one touchdown, a 2-yard run by D.J. Knox. Purdue added a fourth-quarter field goal by Spencer Evans to cut Northwestern’s lead to four points, but could not find the end zone again.
Moore led the Boilermakers in rushing with 79 yards, but Knox was right behind him with 77 yards. Defensively Markus Bailey and Navon Mosley each had nine tackles, with Jacob Thieneman added eight.
The loss snapped Purdue’s three-game winning streak, dating back to last season. The Boilermakers will try to get back on the winning side with a home date against Eastern Michigan on Sept. 8. Meanwhile, Northwestern heads back to Evanston where it will host Duke.
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