WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) — Clayton Thorson passed for a career-best 352 yards and three touchdowns, and Northwestern scored 31 second-half points Saturday on its way to a 45-17 victory against Purdue.
Thorson, who also ran for a touchdown, completed 23 of 36 passes, including five for 92 yards and two touchdowns to wide receiver Austin Carr, who tied the school single-season record with 12 TD receptions.
Austin Jackson rushed 22 times for 127 yards and a touchdown, and John Moten IV had 16 carries for 119 yards, marking the first time since Sept. 14, 2013 against Western Michigan that two Northwestern backs rushed for more than 100 yards in the same game.
“The receivers were getting open, but the offensive line was playing really well,” Thorson said. “There were only one or two times that I was rushed to even make a throw.”
Thorson’s third touchdown pass — a 42-yarder to Garrett Dickerson on the first play after an interception by linebacker Anthony Walker Jr. — gave Northwestern a 28-10 lead with 11:13 remaining in the third quarter. The Wildcats (5-5, 4-3 Big Ten) steadily pulled away.
Finishing with 605 yards of offense, Northwestern outscored Purdue 31-7 during the final 30 minutes.
“We didn’t start the way we wanted, obviously, but you need to credit Purdue for that,” Wildcats coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “We knew we would get a fast start from them. We talked about the first series of the second half being really important. Obviously, depth is important, especially when you see a couple of their defensive starters out.”
Northwestern spotted Purdue (3-7, 1-6) a 10-0, first-quarter lead, then scored the opening half’s final 14 points to lead 14-10 through 30 minutes. Purdue lost its fifth in a row.
The Wildcats extended their lead to 21-10 on Justin Jackson’s 14-yard touchdown run, capping a seven-play, 71-yard drive.
“We certainly are not happy with the second half result,” Purdue interim coach Gerad Parker said. “This isn’t what the Purdue football program should be about, especially in our home stadium.”
Northwestern: Needing two victories in their final three games to become bowl eligible, the Wildcats scored touchdowns on each of their first four second-half drives and pulled away from the struggling Boilermakers. Northwestern gained 557 yards during the first three quarters.
Purdue: Playing without their two best defenders — Jake Replogle (concussion) and Ja’Whaun Bentley (leg) — the Boilermakers’ defense was no match for Northwestern’s balanced offense and fell to 0-15 in November games during the four most recent seasons.
Northwestern: The Wildcats travel to Minnesota on Nov. 19 for their final Big Ten road game.
Purdue: The Boilermakers will play host to No. 7 Wisconsin on Nov. 19 in their final Big Ten home game.