Purdue stayed in the hunt for the Big Ten's West Division crown with a 17-9 victory over visiting Northwestern Saturday afternoon in West Lafayette, Ind.
Quarterback Aidan O'Connell threw for 159 yards and 2 touchdowns in his final home game for Purdue (7-4, 5-3 Big Ten), which must defeat Indiana in next week's regular-season finale and hope for Iowa to lose one of its final two games in order to reach the Big Ten championship game.
Northwestern (1-10, 1-7) dropped its 10th straight game as sophomore walk-on Cole Freeman made his first start at quarterback. Evan Hull rushed for 105 yards and 1 touchdown on 22 carries while Freeman completed 9 of 20 passes for 78 yards and an interception.
Purdue opened the scoring by capping a 10-play, 70-yard drive with O'Connell's 15-yard touchdown pass to Charlie Jones. O'Connell bought time moving in the pocket before finding Jones with 1:48 left in the first quarter.
Northwestern responded with a 13-play drive to Purdue's 5-yard line, but settled for Adam Stage's 23-yard field goal at 12:41 of the second.
Purdue boosted its lead to 14-3 when O'Connell used a play-action fake to connect with tight end Payne Durham for a 3-yard touchdown with 4:12 left in the first half.
The Boilermakers thought they broke open the game on the second half's first possession. Linebacker Jalen Graham stepped in front of a Freeman slant at the Wildcats 49 and high-stepped down the right sideline into the end zone, but officials flagged him for unsportsmanlike conduct to take away the touchdown. That drive ended with a missed field goal.
Northwestern jumped back into the game after Anthony Tyus blocked a Purdue punt to set up Northwestern at midfield near the end of the third quarter. Eight plays later, Hull lined up in Wildcat formation, snagged a high shotgun snap and ran in for a 2-yard score. Freeman's 2-point conversion pass was incomplete, though, and Purdue's lead stayed at 14-9 with 12:49 to go.
The Boilermakers pushed the margin to 17-9 when Mitchell Fineran curled in a 26-yard field goal with 7:08 left.
Northwestern ran repeated Wildcat plays for running backs Hull and Cam Porter and got all the way to Purdue's 43, but Freeman fumbled while being sacked on fourth-and-4. Jack Sullivan made the hit and O.C. Brothers the recovery to give Purdue the ball with 1:26 to go.
Purdue running back Devin Mockobee -- the team's leading rusher -- was injured on the game's first drive and did not return. In his stead, Dylan Downing rushed 17 times for 49 yards and Kobe Lewis rushed 11 times for 42 yards.
--Field Level Media