Purdue football's offense falls flat at Northwestern after last week's outburst

Lafayette Journal & Courier

EVANSTON, Illinois − Purdue football was without its starting quarterback and the Big Ten sacks leader.

Hudson Card did not practice this week in preparation for Northwestern.

Without Card, Purdue alternated Bennett Meredith, a redshirt freshman transfer from Arizona State, and Ryan Browne, a true freshman. Without Nic Scourton, the defense held its own, but was doomed by a few big plays.

Despite chances to take control in the first half, Purdue's offense couldn't score, a month-long issue before the Boilermakers put up a season-high 49 last week.

Purdue could not replicate that offensive efficiency, falling to Northwestern 23-15 at Ryan Field on Saturday.

Purdue had the ball with 1:59 to go, needing 62 yards and a 2-point conversion to force overtime. It was the only time the Boilermakers used the same QB on consecutive drives, going with Browne on the final series. Browne was intercepted after driving Purdue to the Northwestern 34-yard line.

Nov 18, 2023; Evanston, Illinois, USA; Purdue Boilermakers tight end Garrett Miller (88) is tripped up by Northwestern Wildcats defensive back Jaheem Joseph (3) after a pass reception in the second quarter at Ryan Field. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports
Short-yardage situations cost Purdue football points

Early in the season, questions kept coming up about Purdue's inability to convert on third- or fourth-and-short.

Purdue appeared to run for a first down with Tyrone Tracy extending near the sticks on an early second quarter run. The spot was overturned, turning a first-and-10 into a third-and-1. Two unsuccessful runs later, the Boilermakers turned the ball over on downs.

The next series following the turnover on downs, and trailing 6-0, Purdue was stuffed on three consecutive runs inside the 2 and again turned the ball over to Northwestern.

Purdue also missed a field goal in the first half, going into the locker room without points while only sending its punter out once.

Wildcats hit big plays

While Purdue's offense couldn't put points on the board, its defense was able to keep Northwestern at bay.

Until the second half.

The Wildcats had touchdowns of 52 and 34 yards. That was more than enough for Northwestern with Purdue unable to capitalize on several scoring opportunities.

Comparing QBs

Purdue coaches likely wanted to test Meredith and Browne early and ride the hot hand.

The problem was, neither quarterback established himself enough to choose one over the other.

The final numbers:

Meredith − 5 of 7, 36 yards; 4 carries, 7 yards.

Browne − 12 of 16, 104 yards, 2 interceptions; 21 carries, 85 yards.

Sam King covers sports for the Journal & Courier. Email him at and follow him on Twitter and Instagram @samueltking.