Purdue, Northwestern ready for rare appearance at Wrigley Field

NCAA Football

Unable to uphold its reputation as a giant slayer after falling to national-title hopeful Ohio State last week, Purdue will look to rebound Saturday when it faces Northwestern at Wrigley Field in Chicago.

The Boilermakers (6-4, 4-3 Big Ten) boast a pair of victories against top-three foes this season, but they have lost eight of their past 10 to the Wildcats.

“We’ve got an opponent that we haven’t had very good success with here recently, that does a really good job of not beating themselves, playing disciplined football, sound defense,” Purdue coach Jeff Brohm said. “They’re big and physical up front, run the football, control possessions and make the other team beat them.”

The then-No. 23 Wildcats edged unranked Purdue 27-20 on Nov. 14, 2020, the middle of a campaign truncated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Boilermakers wide receiver David Bell had nine receptions for 78 yards, continuing a strong stretch that has seen him lead all wideouts from Power 5 conferences in catches (214), yards (2,766) and yards after the catch (1,042) since 2019.

Bell paced the Boilermakers with 11 receptions for 103 yards during last week’s 59-31 loss at Ohio State, as Aidan O’Connell passed for 390 yards and four scores. Milton Wright had seven catches for a season-best 98 yards and a touchdown.

Purdue was outgained 624-481, unable to keep up with a Buckeyes attack that has helped the team to the No. 4 spot in the College Football Playoff rankings.

Northwestern (3-7, 1-6) enters on a four-game losing streak. The Wildcats have been outscored 126-40 during that span.

The most recent of those defeats was also the most lopsided, as Northwestern absorbed a 35-7 loss at Wisconsin last week. Badgers breakout freshman Braelon Allen ran for 173 yards and three touchdowns.

The Wildcats scored their only touchdown on a 49-yard fumble return by A.J. Hampton Jr. with 11:38 remaining in the game. Northwestern was outgained 497-239, as quarterback Andrew Marty threw three interceptions for the second successive week. Ryan Hilinski relieved Marty in the fourth quarter and also was picked off while completing just 3 of 8 passes for 25 yards.

Northwestern will be back at Wrigley Field for the first time since Nov. 20, 2010, when its game against Illinois marked the first time the renowned baseball stadium hosted college football action since 1938.

“It’s a great honor,” Wildcats coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “Having the privilege to lead a team out into that venue is spectacular. It presents some unique challenges with both teams being on the same sideline, but we’ll make it work.”

Brohm, who played parts of two minor league seasons in the early 1990s as an outfielder, also is looking forward to the opportunity.

“Baseball to me is a game with a lot of history and tradition,” Brohm said. “Obviously, Wrigley Field is as iconic as anywhere. For me, playing at Wrigley is awesome. I know for our players it is, as well. I love baseball. Putting a football field in a baseball stadium is unique. I know our fans will like watching football in that manner.”

The Wildcats were slated to meet Wisconsin at Wrigley last season, but the game ultimately shifted to Evanston, Ill., amid COVID-19 concerns.

–Field Level Media

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