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Only Northwestern player to catch TD pass this season ruled out vs. Purdue

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This isn’t exactly optimal for a passing “attack” as woeful as Northwestern’s.

An unspecified injury suffered during the Oct. 26 loss to Iowa kept J.J. Jefferson out of last Saturday’s loss to Indiana. Ahead of its Week 11 matchup with Purdue, the football program confirmed that the wide receiver has also officially been ruled out for the Boilermakers.

As was the case the week before, Northwestern has not identified the specific nature of the injury.

Jefferson is currently second on the Wildcats with 155 receiving yards and tied for third in receptions with 12. He also leads the team with a 12.9 yards per catch average and two receiving touchdowns.

In fact, Jefferson’s two touchdown catches are the only two for the team through eight games. Northwestern is currently tied with Georgia Southern and Old Dominion for the fewest scoring tosses at the FBS level. Rutgers’ six are next-worst among Power Five schools.

One other injury note: Second-leading rusher Isaiah Bowser is not listed on the injury report, but he’s also not listed on the two-deep depth chart that was attached to the report. Bowser has been struggling with a knee injury suffered in the season opener, one that’s already sidelined him for a total of three games.

No Moore: Purdue’s star WR ruled out for yet another game

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When it comes to Rondale Moore’s availability, it’s lather, rinse and repeat — and it might be time to consider shutting him down for good for the year as well.

Because of a hamstring injury suffered in the Week 4 loss to Minnesota, Moore has missed each of Purdue’s last five games. With a Week 11 matchup against Northwestern fast approaching on the horizon, head coach Jeff Brohm has confirmed that the star wide receiver will be sidelined for a sixth straight game.

With just two regular-season games remaining after this weekend — at 16th-ranked Wisconsin, home versus 7-2 Indiana — and, currently sitting at 3-6, bowl eligibility an unlikelihood, a decision on what’s left of the sophomore’s truncated 2019 campaign will need to be made.

Despite missing more than half the season, Moore is still fourth on the Boilermakers in receptions (29) and third in receiving yards (387).  The sophomore’s also tied for third in receiving touchdowns with two.

Last year as a true freshman, Moore caught 114 passes for 1,258 yards and 12 touchdowns.  He added another 213 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries while also averaging 20.1 and 6.8 yards per kickoff and punt return, respectively.

Northwestern looking to throw first TD pass since September

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Who do you think you are, Army? Navy maybe?

To say that Northwestern’s passing “attack” has struggled throughout the 2019 campaign would be an understatement. The first four games of the season served as the halcyon days for NU’s aerial show, with the Wildcats tossing two touchdown passes in that span.

Since then, they have as many scoring tosses as I do — none, zero, zip, nada, zilch.

That’s right. In the three games since Aidan Smith connected with J.J. Jefferson (out for today’s game against Indiana) from 15 yards out late in the fourth quarter of the Sept. 28 loss to Wisconsin, Northwestern has not put up a single touchdown through the air. Not that they’re doing much scoring by any means, though, as they have just one touchdown, a Wan’Dale Robinson 42-yard run in the Oct. 5 loss to Nebraska, over the last 12 quarters.

Overall, Northwestern is tied with Georgia Southern (both of theirs came in one game, Oct. 19) and Old Dominion (last TD pass: Oct. 12) for the fewest passing touchdowns in the 130-school FBS — Rutgers’ five are next-worst among Power Five schools — while their 126 yards per game through the air are 125th. In scoring offense, they’re 130th at 10.7 points per game and, just as a reminder, there are just 130 teams at this level of football.

All of the offensive ineptness is a very large part of a 1-6 start to the season that serves as the Big Ten school’s worst since the 1989 team went 0-11. The Wildcats, of course, can’t match that squad’s mark so they at least have that going for them. Which is nice.

Northwestern’s second-leading rusher, receiver ruled out

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Off to its worst start (1-6) since its winless 1989 season, Northwestern won’t be getting much help on the injury front heading into Week 10.

As Northwestern gets set to travel to Indiana this Saturday night, the football program announced Thursday that both running back Isaiah Bowser and wide receiver J.J. Jefferson have been ruled out for the Week 10 matchup because of injury.

After suffering a knee injury in the season-opening loss to Stanford, Bowser has played in four of the next six games, including each of the last two.  Jefferson, meanwhile, suffered an unspecified injury in last Saturday’s loss to Iowa.

Despite the missed playing time, Bowser’s 204 yards on the ground are still second on the team.  With Bowser sidelined for a third game, Drake Anderson (436 yards) will again carry the bulk of the running-game load.

Jefferson is the Wildcats’ second-leading receiver with 12 receptions for 155 yards.  With two of them, Jefferson is the only Wildcats football player who has caught a touchdown pass this season.

Mom’s cancer battle partly behind Northwestern QB Hunter Johnson’s absence

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Here’s yet another example of how there are many things much more important — and precious — than football.

A highly-touted transfer from Clemson, Hunter Johnson was Northwestern’s season-opening starter and started the next three games as well. However, what has been described as a minor knee injury suffered in the late-September loss to Wisconsin has played a role in the quarterback being sidelined for the past three games.  It wasn’t, though, the sole reason.

As it turns out, and following a “heart-to-heart” conversation with head coach Pat Fitzgerald, Johnson decided to put football on the backburner recently as his mother battles cancer, something the player revealed to Teddy Greenstein of the Chicago Tribune following Tuesday’s practice.

His mother, Shana, was diagnosed with breast cancer and is recovering from chemotherapy and a mastectomy less than two weeks ago.

“[The head coach and I] cleared the air a little bit,” Johnson said. “Since that conversation, things have been great.

According to Johnson, his mother “has a couple of more procedures” but “[a]t this point things are good.”

Johnson has been practicing throughout his in-game sabbatical and hopes to return to the playing field soon — NU heads to Johnson’s home state of Indiana to play the Hoosiers this weekend — if for nothing more than to follow through on his mom’s edict.

“She doesn’t want what’s going on back home to affect what’s going on here,” Johnson told Greenstein. “As hard as that is, you’ve got to find a way.”