EVANSTON, Ill. - Aidan O’Connell threw for 271 yards and J.D. Dellinger kicked a 39-yard field goal with three seconds left Saturday as Purdue beat Northwestern 24-22 to keep its bowl hopes alive.
O’Connell, a former walk-on, made his first start after Elijah Sindelar (broken left collarbone) and Jack Plummer (broken right ankle) went down with injuries. He led the go-ahead drive late after Wildcats kicker Charlie Kuhbander’s 32-yard field goal bounced off the left upright.
David Bell made 14 catches for 115 yards and a score as the Boilermakers rallied from down 14-0 in the first quarter. Northwestern lost its seventh straight.
Northwestern (1-8, 0-7 Big Ten) scored more points than in its four previous games combined, as receiver-turned-tailback Kyric McGowan rushed for 146 yards and a score.
O’Connell struggled in the first half but helped Purdue (4-6, 3-4 Big Ten) outscore Northwestern 17-6 after halftime. The Wildcats committed two pass interference penalties on the final drive to keep Purdue in it.
McGowan lined up in the backfield and burst up the middle for a 79-yard touchdown on Northwestern’s second play from scrimmage. Aidan Smith found a diving Jace James from 16 yards out to put the Wildcats up 14-0 on the next drive, and Northwestern added a safety.
Running back King Doerue bounced outside for a 12-yard score in the second quarter. Then O’Connell floated touchdown passes over the defense to David Bell and Amad Anderson in the third.
Purdue: The Boilermakers have a tough road remaining with games at Wisconsin and at home against Indiana, but they can still qualify for a bowl game.
Northwestern: A season marked by lifeless offense will end in a last-place finish in the Big Ten West. It’ll be the Wildcats’ worst season since at least 2006, coach Pat Fitzgerald’s first season at the helm.
Purdue: Off next week before a trip to Wisconsin on Nov. 23.
Northwestern: Hosts Massachusetts in a break from Big Ten play.