WEST LAFAYETTE, Indiana — Northwestern followed up last week’s upset of No. 18 Notre Dame with a one-sided 38-14 victory over Purdue at Ross-Ade Stadium Saturday afternoon.
The Boilermakers made it easy for the Wildcats in the first half, turning the ball over four times (one interception, three lost fumbles).
Northwestern first takeaway came when linebacker Jimmy Hall picked off an Austin Appleby pass that deflected off a receiver’s helmet.
With 4:11 left in the first quarter, Hall also forced and recovered a fumble.
“Fumble recoveries is just — you’re in the right place at the right time,” Hall modestly said. “Nothing special on my part.”
Though Northwestern’s bowl hopes stay alive, the win may have come at too great a cost. Senior quarterback seemingly injured his left knee early in the second half and was quickly ruled out for the remainder of the game. He was carted off the field at halftime.
Coach Pat Fitzgerald would not comment on whether he thought Siemian could be back next game but did say it looks like a pretty serious knee injury.
“I’ll know a lot more on Monday [about the injury],” Fitzgerald said. “He’s meant so much to us.”
Before the injury, Siemian went 7-for-12 for 93 yards and a touchdown. If Siemian is unable to play next Saturday against Illinois, his college career is over a week early.
The coaching staff opted to replace him with redshirt freshman Matt Alviti. He led Northwestern’s following drive and completed his first career pass, a three-yard checkdown to super back Jayme Taylor. However, Alviti fumbled the ball at the second quarter’s 11:54-mark.
Junior Zack Oliver appeared under center for the remainder of the game and figures to be next week’s starter if Siemian is unable to play.
Oliver said Siemian is his best friend and that he “wishes him the best,” but the team needs to move forward.
“We’re playing for him,” Oliver said. “We’re going to practice our butts off [this week] and then we’re going to be ready for Illinois.”
Though Oliver did not impress greatly, senior Kyle Prater aided the backup and kept the offense flowing. The senior caught four passes for 84 yards for his fourth 80-plus yard game of the season, and second in a row. His shortest catch went for 16 yards.
Running back Justin Jackson too had a good game, which has become a weekly expectation from the true freshman. He carried the ball 23 times for 147 yards. He also had two rushing touchdowns, with one coming in the form of a 68-yard run in the fourth quarter that put Northwestern up 38-7.
“I’m pretty proud of the way I’ve played and the way our running backs have played,” Jackson said.
The Wildcats (5-6, 3-4 B1G) are bowl eligible with a win against Illinois next Saturday in a battle for the Land of Lincoln Trophy. The Fighting Illini (5-6, 2-5 B1G), who are coming off a 16-14 win against Penn State, are also fighting for bowl eligibility.
However, with Siemian’s injury, the team faces many questions as it prepares for the final game for the regular season.