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Grading Northwestern's performance vs. Purdue

Northwestern is aiming to win 11 games in a season for the first time in school history, but the Wildcats (8-2, 4-2 Big Ten) caution that only a one-win-at-a-time approach will get that done. Following a so-so performance in a 21-14 victory over struggling Purdue, the Wildcats will have to perform better Saturday at Wisconsin.

Offense

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B. Justin Jackson was explosive again with a 116-yard rushing performance that included a touchdown. Warren Long scored twice, averaging 8.7 yards on six carries. QB Clayton Thorson (9 of 19 for 82 yards, interception) had key runs on the go-ahead scoring drive.

Defense

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B+. Linebacker Anthony Walker made 14 tackles (10 solos). He also forced a fumble and had two tackles for a loss. Safety Traveon Henry had five tackles, an interception and two pass breakups. Linebacker Drew Smith had two sacks and Dean Lowry tackles and three quarterback hurries.

Special teams

A-. Punter Hunter Niswander had a good day, averaging 42.8 yards on five punts, landing three inside the 20. Solomon Vault had a 37-yard kickoff return that he nearly broke.

Coaching

A-. Pat Fitzgerald was able to substitute senior quarterback Zack Oliver for Thorson and got the most out of each when needed.


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