11/14/20 Northwestern, Aidan O'Connell, Blak Gallagher

Northwestern’s Blake Gallagher pulls junior quarterback Aidan O’Connell down by the jersey. O’Connell tried to get rid of the ball before being tackled for a loss, but he was called for intentional grounding on the play. O’Connell completed 28 of 51 passing attempts for 263 yards and two touchdowns. He was sacked three times.

Prep without performance dooms Purdue

Preparation was a recurring theme in most of the interviews following Purdue’s loss to Northwestern Saturday night, largely because that preparation wasn’t enough to avoid a Boilermaker loss.

Junior quarterback Aidan O’Connell emphasized how much time the Boilers (2-1) spent watching game film leading up to Saturday.

“We had a bye week,” O’Connell said. “We watched film on them for about a week and a half. We knew what they were going to do, and they pretty much did that the entire game. Credit to them, they did it very well.”

O’Connell went 28-51 on passing in the Boilermakers’ 27-20 loss to the Wildcats (4-0). Despite throwing two touchdown passes, O’Connell passed for a season-low 263 yards. He also lost a fumble in the third quarter to set up a Northwestern score.

Purdue head coach Jeff Brohm said he was prepared for inclement weather, as it was evident that rain would be present throughout the game. The weather had less of an impact on the game than he anticipated it would, he said.

“The weather wasn’t too bad,” Brohm said. “I thought it would be a lot worse than it was. It did affect the footing a little bit. We had some guys slip on some key situations, had receivers on the ground more than we like to. That is probably a combination of slipping and (Northwestern was) doing a good job of being physical and getting their hands on us.”

Purdue actually lost five yards overall rushing the ball in the first half. The team ended the game with two total rushing yards.

“It seemed like we were going backwards every time we were running the ball,” Brohm said. “I need to do a better job about being more creative and find ways we can manufacture yards, because it just didn’t happen this game.”

The physicality of the Northwestern players proved to be difficult for much of the offense. Sophomore wideout David Bell said he was prepared for that and came with a specific mentality.

“I just tried to run hard, just fight through the physicality they had against us,” Bell said. “(Northwestern cornerback) Greg Newsome had my number tonight. He obviously watched film of me, knew every move I was going to make.”

Northwestern often double-teamed Bell, and continuously jammed him at the line. The sophomore struggled to make as much of an impact on the game as usual, as he was kept from the end zone for the first time this season.

During the game, O’Connell tried to force passes to Bell, often to no avail. The quarterback said it was hard to get the offense going when he was focused on one target throughout the game.

Bell finished the game with nine catches for 78 yards, his lowest receiving total of the season to date. He was targeted 17 times throughout the game.

Northwestern featured an up-tempo offense throughout some parts of the game, which Purdue senior linebacker Derrick Barnes said the team had noticed in film.

“Kudos to our coach for making sure we were prepared for that,” Barnes said. “It was a little faster than going against our scout team, but we prepared for it. We did tempo drills in practice so we were ready for it.”

With this loss, Purdue is likely out of the race for the Big Ten West title. The Boilers are still in the running to be bowl eligible, however, and will be in a good position for a prestigious bowl if they win the remainder of their games.

The Boilermakers are looking ahead to Friday’s matchup against Minnesota, where they hope to rebound from Saturday’s loss. The game will take place in St. Paul, Minnesota, at 7:30 p.m. and will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network.

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