West Lafayette, Ind. — 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.
“He did an awesome job,” quarterback Clayton Thorson said, referring to Larkin. “It’s a credit to how he worked in the offseason and we’ll be behind him all season.”
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, who was used in a rotation with TJ Green just about nine months after he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. Coach Pat Fitzgerald said the team doctors wanted to keep Thorson on a sort of pitch-count.
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 the last two Elijah Sindelar’s three interceptions into scores.
“We can take a sack, it’s not a complete killer but we just tossed it to the other team too many times and that’s disappointing,” Purdue coach Jeff Brohm said. “I know he’s disappointed. It will get better.”
Green took care of one with a 1-yard TD plunge and Larkin scored on a 4-yard run with 37 seconds left in the half to make it 31-17.
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.
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