Purdue before the season knew they would be the underdogs all throughout the season, predicted to finish dead last or with 3-4 wins at most for the program. This was back in the summertime even while Jeff Brohm was the head coach. Half a year later, and the Purdue Boilermakers are Foster Farms Bowl Champions defeating Arizona 38-35 finishing 2017 at 7-6.
As we mentioned in our Three Keys to a Boilermaker Victory before the game, one of the keys was to score early and often. Purdue did just that with an easy 6 play, 60-yard opening drive ending in a 31-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Mahoungou for the early 7-0 lead. Arizona would match the Boilermakers scoring drive with two of their own before the Purdue offense soared again. Late in the first, Purdue was able to put together a quick 5 play, 75-yard drive ending in a bomb touchdown pass for 42 yards to Gregory Phillips.
Purdue was not done just yet with a tied ball game at 14-14 in the second quarter. Purdue would only strengthen their chances of a Foster Farms Bowl win with a long 13 play, 90-yard drive ending with a passing TD early in the second. That drive was only the beginning of offensive domination when Purdue followed up the drive with a 6 play, 80-yard drive resulting in a touchdown. Finally, as time expired, Spencer Evans converted a 26-yard field goal to give Purdue a 31-14 advantage going into the break.
A second-half comeback for the Wildcats who struggled to find their footing seemed improbable but somehow happened. In the third, Arizona put together two drives ending in 40-yard touchdown passes making it only a 31-28 Purdue lead with 6:31 left in the third. That would be the score going into the fourth quarter where Arizona threatened to win. With just 3:21 left in the quarter, the Wildcats completed the comeback with a 24-yard touchdown pass giving them a 35-31 advantage over Purdue. After that point, Purdue’s offense really woke up and purely destroyed Arizona. In just 1:37, the Boilermakers put together an 8 play, 75-yard drive ending in the ultimate touchdown catch from Anthony Mahoungou giving Purdue a 38-35 late lead. An excellent defensive play call where Jacob Thieneman lined up in the center of the field would ultimately win the game. Nick Holt obviously knew Arizona was going deep and Thieneman ran over to the open space to intercept the pass and give Purdue the ball. From there, Purdue ran a few plays and used their victory formation twice winding up to be the well-deserved winner of the Foster Farms Bowl.
Elijah Sindelar won Offensive MVP after a magnificent day throwing the football. Sindelar completed 33-of-53 pass attempts for 396 yards and 4 touchdowns to lead the Boilermakers offense. Not only did Sindelar produce the best game of his career, he set the Foster Farms Bowl record for pass completions and passing yards. Additionally, on top of the two new records, Sindelar tied the all-time Purdue Passing Touchdown Bowl Record with Drew Brees.
Gregory Phillips and Anthony Mahoungou each finished with monster days in large part due to great passes from Elijah Sindelar. Phillips caught a ridiculous 14 passes for 149 yards and 2 touchdowns, all of which are new career-highs. What was so unique about Phillips game was he didn’t have a touchdown on the season coming into tonight, and he had two in the first half alone. Mahoungou finished with 6 receptions for 118 yards and 2 touchdowns but most importantly caught the game-winning pass.
In addition to the great passing and receiving game, the Boilers also found tremendous success on the ground. D.J. Knox ran 11 times for 101 yards and a touchdown, while Markell Jones followed up his 200-yard performance against IU with 86 yards on 21 carries on Wednesday night.
Purdue’s Defensive MVP was Ja’Whaun Bentley who once again provided a nice game. Bentley finished with 8 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, and 1 sack to lead the defense. Jacob Thieneman would also have a solid defensive performance, finishing with 6 tackles and the game-sealing interception.
A Foster Farms Bowl Win would mean some cool things would come out of it. For instance, Purdue recorded the most wins in a season and first bowl game win since the 2011 season. Additionally, Jeff Brohm became only the second (Joe Tiller) Purdue head coach to win a bowl game in their 1st season. Finally, Purdue’s 17.8 scoring defense improvement was the largest in FBS from last season to this season.
The big picture for Purdue is a large one after this incredible season. Some expected a dead last finish or maybe a 5-win team, but no one expected a 7-6 team in Jeff Brohm’s inaugural season. It was truly a great season from the start to finish with some good games against solid football programs. Brohm knew he had the group of guys to win, and he pulled everybody together and made it fun to play for him. From tick plays including flea flickers, fake punts, and even fake kneel downs there isn’t a craftier coach than Jeff Brohm.
Building off the win, Purdue has quite some time off not playing until August 30th, 2018 when they face Northwestern in the season opener. There will be 22 new recruits on next year’s roster who are all Jeff Brohm-recruited guys. There will be lots of preparation for the new season but for now, Purdue will enjoy this win.