WEST LAFAYETTE—On a day when starting quarterback Trevor Siemian was lost in the second quarter with a left knee injury, Northwestern’s defense and special teams compensated, producing a much-needed victory.Linebacker Jimmy Hall set up 14 points with an interception and a fumble recovery, and the Wildcats beat Purdue 38-14 on Saturday.
”I was just at the right place at the right time, really,” Hall said of the two plays that established the early momentum. ”It was just guys stepping up, getting forced fumbles, and I was just there at the right time.”
Purdue finished with five turnovers.A victory against Illinois on Nov. 29 would make the Wildcats (5-6, 3-4 Big Ten) bowl eligible. Northwestern last week upset Notre Dame 43-40 in overtime, snapping a four-game losing streak.Siemian hurt his left knee trying to pick up a first down and did not return. He was replaced by Zach Oliver. Coach Pat Fitzgerald said the knee injury appears to be a serious one, although he won’t know specifics until after tests are run.
”We have had a lot of injuries, but our young men have persevered,” Fitzgerald said. ”They’ve kept on battling, and obviously, our backs are against the wall one more time next Saturday.”
Replacing Siemian was difficult emotionally for Oliver.
”Trevor and I are best friends, so it’s tough,” said Oliver, who completed 5 of 11 passes for 85 yards. ”We have to move on. We still have a win to get next week, and then a bowl win, and we are going to be playing for him. Coach Fitzgerald has been calling this little final streak our playoffs, so we have to get that W against Illinois.”
Hall’s interception of a pass by Austin Appleby – one of four first-half Purdue turnovers – set up Northwestern’s first score, a 24-yard pass from Siemian to Dan Vitale.Hall recovered a fumble by Akeem Hunt at the Northwestern 43, setting up a nine-play, 57-yard drive, capped by Justin Jackson’s 9-yard touchdown run for a 14-0 lead.Jackson finished with 23 carries for 147 yards and two touchdowns.