Cam Porter scored a pair of rushing touchdowns to help Northwestern become bowl-eligible with a 23-15 win over visiting Purdue on Saturday.
After starting the season under the cloud of a hazing scandal and subsequent firing of longtime head coach Pat Fitzgerald, the Wildcats (6-5, 4-4 Big Ten) are writing an unlikely but happy ending.
David Braun, made interim head coach this summer after Fitzgerald's dismissal, got his first win as head coach The school promoted him Thursday.
Ben Bryant (13-of-24 passing, 230 yards) hit Cam Johnson in stride for a 52-yard touchdown late in the third quarter to retake the momentum after Purdue (3-8, 2-6) scored to cut the lead to 9-6.
Porter (17 carries, 95 yards) gave Northwestern the lead for good with a 7-yard touchdown on its first possession and added a 34-yard scamper early in the fourth quarter.
The Boilermakers scratched starting quarterback Hudson Card hours before kickoff and rarely caught a break against a Northwestern defense that came up big when most needed. The Wildcats stopped a pair of fourth-down tries and had a pair of takeaways in the first half to lead 6-0 at intermission, then recovered a muffed punt early in the second half that led to a short field goal. Linebacker Xander Mueller sealed the victory with an interception of Ryan Browne at the Northwestern 30 with 19 seconds left.
Tyrone Tracy Jr. had 160 yards on 16 carries and scored a touchdown for Purdue, which has lost five of six.
Purdue: Card's absence hurt, but the Boilermakers twice failed to convert fourth-and-1 chances deep in Northwestern territory in the opening half. Purdue had the ball for more than 19 minutes but went to intermission with nothing to show for it.
Northwestern: The Wildcats won consecutive games for the first time this season and head to in-state rival Illinois next weekend without the added pressure of needing a win to lock up a bowl trip.
Purdue: Ends its season next Saturday against visiting Indiana.
Northwestern: Plays at Illinois next Saturday.
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