“Outlined against a blue-gray [November] sky, the Four Horsemen rode again. In dramatic lore they are known as Famine, Pestilence, Destruction and Death. These are only aliases. Their real names are [Siemian, Jackson, Prater and Jones]. They formed the crest of the [Evanston] Cyclone before which another fighting [Purdue] football team was swept over the precipice at the [Ross-Ade Stadium] [this] afternoon as [a few] spectators peered down on the bewildering panorama spread on the green plain below.”
It seems that Grantland Rice (the namesake of a certain famously long-winded sports site) wrote a fitting, yet gripping recap for this afternoon’s Northwestern-Purdue football tilt almost exactly 90 years in advance.
What’s that? He was writing about Notre Dame beating Army in 1924? Notre … Dame … Is that the same Catholic school that this Wildcats team miraculously knocked off about a week ago under the watchful eye of Touchdown Jesus? Ah yes, that’s the one. (It’s okay to bask in the glow for just a little while longer).
Nevertheless, yet again, on the wings of angels, the ‘Cats swooped down on another stadium deep in the heart of Indiana and in (several) fell swoops, emerged from the scrum as the victor.
The win thrusted Northwestern to 5-6 (3-4 in B1G play), one win away from the magical land of bowl eligibility, something any rational Wildcat fan would’ve told you was an absurd proposition a little over a week ago. Purdue, on the other hand, fell into the 3-8 pit (1-6 in B1G play).
After the ‘Cats pounced on two turnovers (one interception and one fumble) forced by senior linebacker Jimmy Hall, they grabbed a 14-0 first quarter lead on the back of senior quarterback Trevor Siemian, with both touchdowns coming directly following Boilermaker miscues.
Then with 14:09 to go in the second quarter, senior wide receiver Tony Jones gracefully spun out of a tackle and returned a Purdue punt 64 yards to the house to put the ‘Cats up 21. That was Northwestern’s first punt return TD since some unknown man named Venric Mark took one back against Penn State in 2012.
It appeared that everything was going the way of the ‘Cat until Siemian was stood up on a 4th-and-1 run attempt and went down awkwardly early in the second quarter. He was forced to leave the game and was seen in crutches in the second half, having possibly re-aggravated the ankle injury that has hobbled him several times this season.
But backup junior Zack Oliver was more than ready to toss the rock in his stead, consistently making tight throws to senior wide receiver Kyle Prater, leading the ‘Cats down the field and even calling his own number with a one yard run early in the 4th quarter to put the game out of reach at 31-7.
Not to be outdone, freshman Justin Jackson rushed for 147 yards, including breaking off a 68-yard dash down the right sideline to put the ‘Cats up 38-7 late. Most notably, he put himself over the 1,000 yard rushing mark for the year with that run, which is quite the accomplishment for the young stud.
At the end of the day, this was one superior football team taking advantage of an inferior team’s mistakes. But that’s not to take anything away from the ‘Cats’ effort this afternoon. It looks like they’re really hitting their stride, especially offensively. After all, they were able to reel off 17 more points without Siemian, and it might have been 20 were it not for a missed field goal by Jack Mitchell.
After an emotional, hard fought victory over Notre Dame last weekend, this felt like the definition of a “trap game.” But coach Pat Fitzgerald had his boys ready, and it appears like the big win in South Bend might be enough to catapult the ‘Cats into a previously-unlikely bowl game. They’ll have to get by another team fighting for a bowl in Illinois next Saturday at home (and possibly without Siemian), and heaven knows what bizarre things can go down in rivalry games. Nobody’s saying it’ll be easy, but as far as this afternoon’s dominant performance goes, well, take it away, Grantland Rice:
“We doubt that any team in the country could have beaten [Fitz’s] array [this] afternoon, East or West. It was a great football team brilliantly directed, a team of speed, power and team play. [Purdue] has [well, some] cause to gloom over its showing. It played first-class football against more speed than it could match. Those who have tackled a cyclone can understand.”