Herron saves Northwestern with last-minute TD

EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) -- As if Northwestern coach Randy Walker's
heart didn't get enough of a workout this week.

Noah Herron ran 3 yards for a touchdown with 38 seconds left
Saturday to give Northwestern a 13-10 upset of Purdue (No. 19 ESPN/USA Today; No. 17 AP), the
Wildcats' second victory against a Top 25 team this month. Ailing
Purdue quarterback Kyle Orton, once a Heisman Trophy favorite, was
ineffective and pulled late in the third quarter.

Jeff Backes knocked backup quarterback Brandon Kirsch's
desperation pass out of Taylor Stubblefield's hands in the end zone
as time expired, preserving the victory.

"I was critical somewhat of our players' inability to keep this
from being exciting," said Walker, who spent two days in the
hospital earlier this week with inflammation of the heart muscle.

"Noah corrected me quickly. He said, 'Coach, you just said win
it in regulation."

Indeed, Northwestern (4-4, 3-2 Big Ten) already has played three
overtime games this year, including a 33-27 victory against then-No. 7
Ohio State on Oct. 2.

It was the third straight loss for Purdue, which started the
season 5-0.

"We're disappointed," Orton said. "We've got to go back to
step one and try to start scoring points again."

That won't be easy if Orton continues to have games like this.
He was dazzling early in the season, putting up one gaudy set of
stats after another. But he was uninspiring in back-to-back losses
to Wisconsin and Michigan, and downright blah against the Wildcats
-- getting pulled for Kirsch after throwing his fifth interception
of the year.

Slowed in the Michigan game by a right hip pointer, Orton said
he hurt his left hip flexor against the Wildcats, an injury that
left him unable to twist or get any torque when he had to throw the
ball. A howling, swirling wind that gusted up to 40 mph didn't help

"I couldn't really move around, I couldn't twist my hips," he
said. "I couldn't get anything on the football and offensively we
were stagnant, so we decided to make a switch."

But coach Joe Tiller said Orton's problems went beyond his

"We made the change because he was really struggling with the
offense," Tiller said. "It's one thing to not be at your best
physically, but it's another thing to not be at your best mentally.
If you're not at your best mentally, then open receivers aren't
spotted and we had a number of those."

Orton finished 15-of-33 for 143 yards, including a 12-yard
scoring pass to Dorien Bryant. It was his least productive day of
the season. He also had a fumble in the first quarter that set up
Northwestern's first score.

"That's all on me, no excuses," Orton said. "That's
frustrating stuff. It shouldn't happen."

Especially against the Wildcats. The Boilermakers (5-3, 2-3) had
dominated Northwestern in recent years, winning the last seven.
Purdue was the only Big 10 team Northwestern hadn't beaten since Walker
became coach in 1999.

And Northwestern didn't exactly have a fearsome secondary like
Wisconsin or Michigan. The Wildcats came into the game allowing a
whopping 269.1 yards passing per game, 105th out of 118 teams
playing Division I-A football. That should have been child's play
for the Boilermakers, whose 314.9 yards of passing was fifth-best
in the country.

Instead, it was the Wildcats making Purdue look silly. The
Boilermakers finished with just 210 yards passing, their lowest
total of the year, and they had 332 yards of total offense -- more
than 100 below their average.

"You can say the wind was a factor or you could say we had a
good game," cornerback Marvin Ward said. "I think we executed
almost to perfection. It was a total defensive effort."

Kirsch was solid in Orton's place, moving the Boilermakers to
the Northwestern 19 on his first drive. But Tim McGarigle made a
shoestring tackle on third down, stopping Kirsch four yards shy of
the markers.

Instead of going for it, the Boilermakers tried a 29-yard field
goal. But Ben Jones had to kick into a wind gusting up to 40 mph,
and the ball sailed wide right -- leaving Purdue with a 10-7 lead.

The Boilermakers were forced to punt on their next two
possessions, but they looked as if they might pull it out with
Northwestern's offense unable to get anything going. But after
being shut out since the first quarter, the Wildcats finally
started clicking when they got the ball back at their own 16 with
1:50 to play.

Brett Basanez went 4-for-5, completing passes of 11, 29, 10 and
12 yards to move the Wildcats to the Purdue 21. That's when the
Boilermakers got sloppy. They were called for pass interference
when cornerback Antwaun Rogers shoved Kim Thompson in front of the
end zone, then whistled for offsides.

That gave Northwestern the ball at the Purdue 3, and Basanez
flipped it to Herron, who took it into the end zone untouched.

"We got that momentum right at the end of the game when we
needed it. Regulation or overtime, we were going to win the game,"
Herron said. "We've got to win seven games to be bowl-eligible, so
it's a big win for that. It's a bigger win for this team."

ESPN Fan Shop Powered By

  • Nike Men's Purdue Boilermakers Black/Old Gold Team Issue Performance PoloShop