October 28, 2007

Crunched at crunch time

Through three quarters, it looked like Northwestern might be able to pull off an impressive three-peat on Saturday in West Lafayette. Leading 17-14, the Wildcats seemed poised to upset Purdue, extend their winning streak to four games and clinch bowl eligibility with their sixth win of the season.

But at crunch time - the fourth quarter - all three of those dazzling images turned out to be mirages, and Purdue reeled off 21 unanswered points to coast to a 35-17 win.

Northwestern is usually the team that finishes its opponents off down the stretch, but against Purdue, they finished themselves.

Everyone had expected a shootout between the top two passing offenses in the Big Ten, but Northwestern had ridden its surprisingly stout defense through the first three quarters on Saturday. And in the final period, the defense's legs just gave out, victims of a Wildcat offense that produced four straight three-and-outs, and a Purdue attack that racked up 220 yards and held onto the ball for 11:46 of the last 15 minutes.

The Wildcats had shown remarkable resilience in the first half, overcoming four turnovers to somehow go into the locker room tied with the Boilermakers at 14. The Cats fell behind 14-0 but then responded with two touchdowns of their own in the second.

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