Who will start for Northwestern at QB vs Purdue? You’ll have to wait

Clayton Thorson attempts a pass during a Northwestern preseason practice in August of 2018.

EVANSTON  – Perhaps it’s become a little bit of a game now for the head coach – maybe a version of quarterback poker.

One thing is for certain this week in Evanston, Pat Fitzgerald’s not showing his signal caller card until he absolutely has to.

“They’ll flip the coin at 8:06 PM (EST) and then he’ll run out or not run out..could be 8:08, or maybe three or four minutes later,” said the Northwestern head coach last week when asked about who his starter would be against Purdue Thursday in West Lafayette.

Fitzgerald has kept that poker face on about his quarterback ever since, even through his weekly news conference on campus on Monday. Even the depth chart did it’s part in adding to the mystery.

But in a perfect world, Clayton Thorson would be one to run on the field with the first team at Ross Ade Stadium under the lights on Thursday. He’s been the starter for Fitzgerald in 2015 and comes into the year as one of the more intriguing senior quarterbacks in the country.

The question with him, obviously, is the completion of his rehabilitation from the torn ACL he suffered in the Music City Bowl last December. He’s been practicing for most of the Wildcats’ training camp and in interviews both Fitzgerald and Thorson has been positive about his progress.

As you would expect, the quarterback wouldn’t confirm his status for the Purdue game and whether he will start. But Thorson, who has thrown for 7,548 yards with 44 touchdowns compared to 30 interceptions in three seasons with the Wildcats, believes that he can not only return to his previous form as a thrower, but could be better.

“I feel like I am throwing better,” said Thorson. “I think just going through the offseason, especially with getting hurt and kinda having to, not re-learn, but restart in that sense, in a mechanics sense. I think that’s helped a lot, actually and has really helped me refine that.

“So I’m feeling a lot better throwing the ball right now, feeling really confident.”

Some might be confident that he’ll be the guy to take the first snap of the 2018 season for Northwestern. But we’ll have to wait till 8:06 PM Eastern to be sure.