WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) — Jeremy Larkin ran for a career-high 143 yards and scored two touchdowns in his first game as Northwestern’s feature back and the Wildcats’ sealed Thursday night’s 31-27 victory at Purdue by running off the final 7 minutes, 57 seconds.
Northwestern won its ninth straight overall and ninth straight in Big Ten play — matching the school’s longest streak since the 1995 Rose Bowl season. The Wildcats still have the longest active streak among Power Five teams, too.
Purdue’s three-game winning streak ended with its third opening-day loss in four years.
This one spoiled a record-breaking night for freshman receiver Rondale Moore, who had 313 all-purpose yards to break Otis Armstrong’s school record of 312 in 1972. Moore had 302 yards including a 32-yard TD catch and a 76-yard run for Purdue in the first half of his college debut.
The Wildcats started fast and closed it out with a first down on a personal foul call against Lorenzo Neal with 2:31 left and the Boilermakers out of timeouts.
Larkin spent last season backing up Justin Jackson, the school’s career rushing leader, but proved he could be a workhorse. Larkin carried 26 times and produced his second career 100-yard game.
The game also marked the return of Thorson, just about nine months after he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.
It was a wild first half.
Northwestern took a 14-0 lead with a 1-yard TD run from Larkin and a 2-yard run from John Moten IV on its first two possessions. And after breaking a 14-14 tie with Charlie Kuhbander’s 34-yard field goal, it converted two of Elijah Sindelar’s three interceptions into scores.
Quarterback TJ Green capped the first one with 1-yard TD plunge and Larkin scored on a 4-yard run with 37 seconds left in the half to give Northwestern a 31-17 lead.
But after D.J. Knox broke off a 45-yard run on Purdue’s first play of the third quarter, things slowed. Knox capped the drive with a 2-yard TD run, and Spencer Evans made a 27-yard field goal to make it 31-27 just 4 seconds into the fourth quarter to close out the scoring.
Northwestern: The Wildcats needed a change after slow starts the past two seasons. The win could help them emerge as a contender in the Big Ten West.
Purdue: The Boilermakers made too many mistakes in the first half and failed to finish with the flurry they needed. Sindelar was benched after his third pick and a home loss certainly won’t help their momentum.
Northwestern: Faces Duke in its home opener on Sept. 8.
Purdue: Hosts Eastern Michigan on Sept. 8.