12:00 PM ET, October 30, 2004
Ryan Field, EVANSTON, IL
EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) -- As if Northwestern coach Randy Walker's heart didn't get enough of a workout this week.
Noah Herron ran 3 yards for a touchdown with 38 seconds left Saturday to give Northwestern a 13-10 upset of Purdue (No. 19 ESPN/USA Today; No. 17 AP), the Wildcats' second victory against a Top 25 team this month. Ailing Purdue quarterback Kyle Orton, once a Heisman Trophy favorite, was ineffective and pulled late in the third quarter.
Jeff Backes knocked backup quarterback Brandon Kirsch's desperation pass out of Taylor Stubblefield's hands in the end zone as time expired, preserving the victory.
"I was critical somewhat of our players' inability to keep this from being exciting," said Walker, who spent two days in the hospital earlier this week with inflammation of the heart muscle.
"Noah corrected me quickly. He said, 'Coach, you just said win it in regulation."
Indeed, Northwestern (4-4, 3-2 Big Ten) already has played three overtime games this year, including a 33-27 victory against then-No. 7 Ohio State on Oct. 2.
It was the third straight loss for Purdue, which started the season 5-0.
"We're disappointed," Orton said. "We've got to go back to step one and try to start scoring points again."
That won't be easy if Orton continues to have games like this. He was dazzling early in the season, putting up one gaudy set of stats after another. But he was uninspiring in back-to-back losses to Wisconsin and Michigan, and downright blah against the Wildcats -- getting pulled for Kirsch after throwing his fifth interception of the year.
Slowed in the Michigan game by a right hip pointer, Orton said he hurt his left hip flexor against the Wildcats, an injury that left him unable to twist or get any torque when he had to throw the ball. A howling, swirling wind that gusted up to 40 mph didn't help matters.
"I couldn't really move around, I couldn't twist my hips," he said. "I couldn't get anything on the football and offensively we were stagnant, so we decided to make a switch."
But coach Joe Tiller said Orton's problems went beyond his health.
"We made the change because he was really struggling with the offense," Tiller said. "It's one thing to not be at your best physically, but it's another thing to not be at your best mentally. If you're not at your best mentally, then open receivers aren't spotted and we had a number of those."
Orton finished 15-of-33 for 143 yards, including a 12-yard scoring pass to Dorien Bryant. It was his least productive day of the season. He also had a fumble in the first quarter that set up Northwestern's first score.
"That's all on me, no excuses," Orton said. "That's frustrating stuff. It shouldn't happen."
Especially against the Wildcats. The Boilermakers (5-3, 2-3) had dominated Northwestern in recent years, winning the last seven. Purdue was the only Big 10 team Northwestern hadn't beaten since Walker became coach in 1999.
And Northwestern didn't exactly have a fearsome secondary like Wisconsin or Michigan. The Wildcats came into the game allowing a whopping 269.1 yards passing per game, 105th out of 118 teams playing Division I-A football. That should have been child's play for the Boilermakers, whose 314.9 yards of passing was fifth-best in the country.
Instead, it was the Wildcats making Purdue look silly. The Boilermakers finished with just 210 yards passing, their lowest total of the year, and they had 332 yards of total offense -- more than 100 below their average.
"You can say the wind was a factor or you could say we had a good game," cornerback Marvin Ward said. "I think we executed almost to perfection. It was a total defensive effort."
Kirsch was solid in Orton's place, moving the Boilermakers to the Northwestern 19 on his first drive. But Tim McGarigle made a shoestring tackle on third down, stopping Kirsch four yards shy of the markers.
Instead of going for it, the Boilermakers tried a 29-yard field goal. But Ben Jones had to kick into a wind gusting up to 40 mph, and the ball sailed wide right -- leaving Purdue with a 10-7 lead.
The Boilermakers were forced to punt on their next two possessions, but they looked as if they might pull it out with Northwestern's offense unable to get anything going. But after being shut out since the first quarter, the Wildcats finally started clicking when they got the ball back at their own 16 with 1:50 to play.
Brett Basanez went 4-for-5, completing passes of 11, 29, 10 and 12 yards to move the Wildcats to the Purdue 21. That's when the Boilermakers got sloppy. They were called for pass interference when cornerback Antwaun Rogers shoved Kim Thompson in front of the end zone, then whistled for offsides.
That gave Northwestern the ball at the Purdue 3, and Basanez flipped it to Herron, who took it into the end zone untouched.
"We got that momentum right at the end of the game when we needed it. Regulation or overtime, we were going to win the game," Herron said. "We've got to win seven games to be bowl-eligible, so it's a big win for that. It's a bigger win for this team."
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||8-18||6-17|
|4th Down Conversions||0-1||0-0|
|TD||9:08||TERRELL JORDAN 14 YD RUN (BRIAN HUFFMAN KICK)|
Drive info: 3 plays, 28 yards.
|FG||8:03||BEN JONES 23 YD FG|
Drive info: 4 plays, 1 yards.
|TD||1:03||DORIEN BRYANT 12 YD PASS FROM KYLE ORTON (BEN JONES KICK)|
Drive info: 7 plays, 46 yards.
|TD||0:38||NOAH HERRON 3 YD RUN (MISSED KICK)|
Drive info: 8 plays, 84 yards.