11/9/19 Northwestern, Aidan O'Connell

Then-sophomore quarterback Aidan O’Connell looks for an open receiver in a game against Northwestern last November. He completed 34 passes for 50 attempts in his first start.

The Boilermakers will play Northwestern this Saturday following last week’s canceled game against Wisconsin.

Like the Boilermakers (2-0), the Wildcats (3-0) are undefeated after allowing only a single field goal from Maryland in their opener and securing comebacks against Iowa and Nebraska in each of the last two weeks.

“We don’t really care about undefeated,” junior quarterback Aidan O’Connell said. “We’re just trying to play the best game that we can this week.”

Last season, O’Connell and the Boilers pulled off a comeback win against the Wildcats after Northwestern scored two touchdowns in the first quarter. Purdue left Evanston, Illinois, with a 24-22 victory. That win broke a five-year losing streak for the Boilermakers and was O’Connell’s first start.

“I’m just trying to learn from it and understand that we’re a different team than we were last year,” O’Connell said.

So far this season, Northwestern has secured the first-place spot in the Big Ten West ranking with Purdue following in second.

“They’re a physical team,” offensive line coach Dale Williams said. “You have to match physicality with physicality.”

The Wildcats have held each of their opponents to fewer than 20 points this season, and their defense returned many experienced players from last year.

After redshirt freshman offensive lineman Cam Craig was injured in the second week, Spencer Holstege, also an offensive lineman and redshirt freshman, jumped up to help fill the gap.

“I’m playing different positions across the line and getting used to it,” Holstege said.

Holstege was a redshirt player last season, which gave him the opportunity to learn as much as he could from the coaches and other players.

“It was tremendous,” Williams said. “He needed that year.”

When Holstege got to play center during his redshirt year, he got tossed in and knocked around and he’s better for it, Williams said.

The Boilermakers will play the Wildcats at 5 p.m. on Saturday at Ross-Ade Stadium. The game will be broadcast live on the Big Ten Network.

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