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The Journal Gazette

Thursday, August 30, 2018 10:10 pm

Halftime: Northwestern 31, Purdue 17

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

WEST LAFAYETTE – When Rondale Moore officially signed with Purdue in February, the Boilers were pretty sure they had a star. Moore was easily the best player in the Boilers' 2018 recruiting class, a four-star wide receiver who had plenty of speed to make an immediate impact.

He made an immediate impact Thursday.

After getting hit hard inside his own 20 on his first two kickoff returns, Moore broke his first big play with a return to the 40 after Northwestern had taken a 14-0 lead and had all the momentum. Later in that drive, he pulled down a crossing route from Elijah Sindelar and took it the rest of the way for a 32-yard touchdown. On the next possession, it was a jet sweep outside that he cut back for a 76-yard score. He simply outraced everyone to tie the score at 14.

Moore was the star of the first half, gaining 177 total yards and scoring twice. Purdue was mostly quiet otherwise on offense, though Jared Sparks caught five passes for 63 yards. Quarterback Elijah Sindelar had his half marred by a couple of horrible decisions that turned into interceptions. Both times he threw off his back foot into coverage. He ended up with three interceptions in the half and Northwestern scored 21 points off of them. That's the difference in the game to this point.

Northwestern looked like it might run away with the game early, using a series of short and medium plays to score the game's opening touchdown and getting a 46-yard burst from running back Jeremy Larkin to set up another touchdown and make it 14-0. Larkin had that one big run, but Purdue largely held him in check outside of that. He finished with 14 carries for 93 yards and two TDs.

Northwestern's quarterback situation was the talk of the half outside of Moore. Clayton Thorson, coming off an ACL tear in the team's bowl game, started against Purdue and went 6 for 7 for 51 yards on the first two drives, both of which ended in touchdowns. On the next two drives, however, backup TJ Green ran the offense, with Thorson on the sideline. Thorson returned in the second quarter and it seemed as though Northwestern was trying to limit his time on the field, while still getting him in the action. He clearly played better than Green and the offense moved well when he was in the game.

Purdue's defense really struggled to get a push up front on the two opening drives, but improved as the half went on, stopping Northwestern on a key 3rd-and-1 in the second quarter. Sophomore Cornel Jones, one of the new starters at linebacker, was all over the field, making five tackles, including two for loss.