EVANSTON, Ill. (AP)-- The Northwestern Wildcats will look to regroup Saturday against scuffling Purdue, after losing its first game of the season because of turnovers and poor special teams play.
Since Northwestern (5-1, 1-1 Big Ten) lost last Saturday to Michigan State, head coach Pat Fitzgerald has emphasized the importance of putting the loss behind the Wildcats and responding against the Boilermakers.
"You can learn from a loss but you never accept a loss. You flush it and move on," Fitzgerald said. "Now we'll be tested.
"I believe in our guys, they believe in each other and it's going to be a great challenge for us."
After playing against a pair of run-first teams, Northwestern will face an offense very similar to its own.
"(Purdue) spreads you out and tries to get the ball outside to their receivers," said Wildcats linebacker Prince Kwateng. "So we just have to focus on doing our jobs and just be sound in our techniques. It's going to be a tough game but we're really excited."
Northwestern will need a better performance from quarterback C.J. Bacher, who threw two interceptions last week and has seven over his past three games.
The Wildcats also need to win the turnover battle after losing 3-0 to the Spartans.
Purdue (2-4, 0-2) has losses to three Top 25 teams this season and comes in on a three-game losing streak, the last two against No. 3 Penn State and No. 12 Ohio State.
Quarterback Curtis Painter, the Boilermakers' preseason candidate for the Heisman Trophy, has accumulated yardage but struggled with turnovers. Painter has thrown for 1,453 yards, giving him 10,216 for his career, but has only five touchdowns while being intercepted six times.
Purdue has scored a total of nine points in its last two games after averaging over 30 points a game in its previous four.
"We've just played, statistically speaking, the best defenses back to back," Purdue head coach Joe Tiller said. "I think this is the toughest go we've had in terms of opponents and the quality of opponents back-to-back-to-back."
Painter pointed to several sustained drives as a cause for optimism, even if they didn't result in points.
"I think we've done some things well," Painter said. "We've had some drives that were eight-, nine-, ten-, eleven-play drives that you'd like to think we'd be able to punch those in. For whatever reason, we haven't been able to."
Tiller said a banged up offensive line is the main reason for the sputtering offense.
"I think our game in Columbus was the poorest our offensive line has played all year," Tiller said. "I think that's really handicapped probably our offensive production more than anyone knows."
Things aren't likely to change this weekend with fifth-year senior tackle Garret Miller undergoing season-ending surgery on his foot. True freshman Ken Plue should get his first career start at guard in place of Justin Pierce, who is battling headaches. Starting center Cory Benton also suffered an elbow injury last Saturday against Ohio State.