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Boiler Up! Purdue holds off Arizona rally to win Foster Farms Bowl

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Fans who don’t follow Purdue closely might not know the name Anthony Mahoungou but after the wideout’s performance in the Foster Farms Bowl, safe to say he’ll be talked about for quite a while by fans of the Boilermakers. That’s because the senior from Paris — yes, as in France — wrestled in the game-winning touchdown with just under two minutes left to cap off a wild second half for both sides and give Purdue (7-6) a 38-35 victory over Arizona (7-6).

Mahoungou, who finished the night with six catches for 118 yards and a pair of scores, prevented what would have been a heck of a collapse for an offense that put up 31 points in the first half but was held scoreless after leaving the locker room right up until he crossed the goal line. Fellow senior Gregory Phillips added his own bit of aerobatics into the end zone with one of his two touchdown catches and formed a pretty good opposite number to his teammate with a game-high 149 yards.

While there were stretches in the third and fourth quarter where the offense wasn’t quite clicking on the rare trip to the West Coast for the Boilermakers, quarterback Elijah Sindelar threw for 396 yards with four touchdowns and just one interception on 53 attempts — none bigger than that final one down the field.

Those heroics spoiled an improbable rally on the part of Arizona, which was close to pitching a second half shutout and had scored 21 unanswered to take the lead in the fourth quarter. Wildcats quarterback Khalil Tate had only 58 yards rushing but was terrific through the air to spark the team when they needed it. The electric dual-threat finished his first postseason outing with 302 yards passing and five touchdowns of at least 24 yards — but did toss an interception on the team’s final drive to seal the loss.

In what was a key reason the team lost though, Rich Rodriguez‘ squad never could get things going consistently in the run game and had only 128 yards rushing. That will be quite the disappointment to the fans back in Tucson as the team looked like they had turned the corner in October but limped to the finish of the 2017 season with four losses in their past five games.

Trending in the other direction would be the winners in the Bay Area as Purdue completed a remarkable rebuild in record time under first year coach Jeff Brohm. The Boilermakers not only won a bowl game for the first time in six years but closed the year strongly with their fourth win in their last five outings. Both teams have plenty to look forward to in 2018 but there was certainly a lot more for the Big Ten side to remember after pretty fun finish from the Bay Area.

Purdue leads Arizona as Foster Farms Bowl shootout reaches halftime

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Any game matching up Rich Rodriguez and Jeff Brohm figured to turn into a bit of a shootout and that’s exactly what transpired at the Foster Farms Bowl on Wednesday night as Purdue took a 31-14 lead over Arizona into halftime at Levi’s Stadium. The two sides combined for nearly 500 yards of total offense after just two quarters and both averaged over six yards per play in a game where moving the ball came a lot easier than stopping it.

Elijah Sindelar may not have the ability to threaten with his legs like his counterpart on the other team but he turned in a masterful performance with his arm and threw for 244 yards and three touchdowns through the air. Tailback Markell Jones recorded 60 yards rushing but it was the speedy D.J. Knox who managed the only score on the ground for the offense and pulled off an incredible trick play.

Still, the story of the game so far was the top Purdue wideouts seemingly finding open space on every play. Anthony Mahoungou kicked the scoring off when he raced up the sideline 31 yards to the end zone after making a defender miss, finishing the half with a trio of catches for a grand total of 70 yards. That would be impressive if not for his teammate Gregory Phillips, who already topped the century mark with 107 yards receiving and a pair of touchdowns. The first of the two scores out of the senior was a 42 bomb that he hauled in before twisting and diving into the end zone for six, following that up with a 22 yarder that was much easier in terms of difficulty.

Arizona’s offense wasn’t quite as prolific as we’ve seen this season but they still had plenty of moments in the half. Star QB Khalil Tate threw for 145 yards and a pair of touchdowns — one a beautiful over the shoulder pass to Tony Ellison — but was bottled up pretty well when it came to rushing the ball. The noted dual-threat had only 37 yards on the ground and never came close to breaking off the big run that he’s been known to rip off if given a sliver of daylight.

Nick Wilson added 16 yards rushing for a rushing attack that should receive plenty of halftime adjustments.

The Foster Farms Bowl has had its share of rather sleepy affairs in front of sparse crowds at Levi’s Stadium in the Bay Area and while that latter point still holds for this game, there’s nothing sleepy about this edition between Arizona and Purdue. That should make for a fun second half — even if the Wildcats do need to put in a little extra work to get back into things against a hungry group of Boilermakers.

Purdue could be awfully fun with Jeff Brohm reportedly hired as next coach

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Purdue has its next coach, according to Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman and FootballScoop, and will hire Western Kentucky’s Jeff Brohm.

Brohm engineered an exciting, explosive spread offense with the Hilltoppers, leading Western Kentucky to back-to-back Conference USA titles in 2015 and 2016 and the program’s only two double digit-win seasons. Western Kentucky went 12-2 in 2015 and finished No. 24 in the AP poll, the program’s only top-25 ranking in its 10-year FBS history.

Under Brohm, Western Kentucky’s offense ranked 9th in S&P+ in 2014, 4th in 2015 and 9th in 2016. The high-flying Hilltoppers averaged 44.4, 44.3 and 41.9 points per game in Brohm’s three years.

Making Brohm’s accomplishments in Bowling Green, Ky. more impressive is that he maintained a high level of offensive success from 2015 to 2016 after losing star quarterback Brad Doughty, who threw for over 5,000 yards and 48 touchdowns in the Hilltoppers’ 12-2 2015 campaign. Mike White stepped in this year and threw for 4,027 yards with 34 touchdowns, signaling that Brohm’s system wasn’t successful just because of one good quarterback.

Obviously, Big Ten defenses will be a step up from those Brohm’s teams faced in C-USA. But Purdue does have the advantage of being in the fairly wide-open Big Ten West, in which a team can have a far easier time breaking through than in the brawling Big Ten East. While Wisconsin is a rock-solid program, in any given year getting past Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Northwestern and Illinois is feasible.

This won’t be an immediate turnaround in West Lafayette for Brohm, of course. But this is a program with plenty of offensive success in the last two decades (see: Brees, Drew) that looks like a very, very interesting fit for Brohm.

Pair of pick sixes helps Herd thunder past Purdue

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Say this for Austin Appleby: outside those times he was intercepted, the Purdue quarterback played a pretty good game. Problem is, he was intercepted four times and two of them went back for touchdowns, providing the margin necessary for Marshall to register a come-from-behind 41-31 victory on Sunday afternoon.

After accepting the opening kickoff, Purdue’s very first snap from scrimmage was an Appleby pass immediately snared by Tiquan Lang and returned 30 yards for a touchdown. Appleby settled down from there – for the most part – over the course of the first half, tossing a nine-yard touchdown to Danny Anthrop (while in the process of stiff-arming a Marshall defender) and plunging in for a one-yard score, allowing the Boilermakers to take a 21-17 lead to the locker room.

Marshall’s Michael Birdsong put the Herd back on top to open the second half, firing a one-yard scoring strike to Ryan Yuracheck as the punctuator to a nine-play, 71-yard drive. Purdue regained the lead midway through the third on a 36-yard Markell Jones jaunt and held that edge until the game’s final three minutes. Trailing 31-27, Birdsong led Marshall on an efficient 11-play, 84-yard march, handling most of the drive himself before handing to Devon Johnson for a twisting six-yard score to give Marshall a 34-31 edge with 2:50 to go.

On the ensuing drive, Appleby led Purdue to its own 40 before a downfield toss was intercepted by Lang, again, who raced the rock 55 yards for the clinching score with 1:20 remaining. Appleby was intercepted again for good measure just five plays later, ending any delusion of a comeback with 27 ticks remaining.

For the day, Appleby was 31-of-48 for 270 yards (plus 12 rushing) for those two touchdowns to go with his four interceptions. The Boilermakers moved the ball more effectively than Marshall, edging the Thundering Herd on the ground (D.J. Knox and Jones combined for 174 yards and two scores on 34 attempts) and through the air while maintaing a 28-20 edge in first downs and a 10-4 advantage in third down conversions. The Purdue defense even forced three turnovers of its own. But it’s hard to win, especially on the road, while handing the opponent 17 points in the forms of two pick sixes and a missed field goal.

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For Doc Holliday and company, Sunday’s win was a grand way to begin the post-Rakeem Cato era. Birdsong connected on 23-of-36 throws for 234 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Johnson added 11 carries for 89 yards and a score. Before a sellout crowd of 38,000-plus, the Herd recorded their 20th win in 22 tries dating back to November of 2013 – and first ever over a Big Ten opponent.

The loss sends Purdue careening on an opposite trajectory. The program has now lost 21 of 25 games under head coach Darrell Hazell. Sunday’s loss was also Purdue’s sixth straight road non-conference setback, a streak dating back to 2007.

Purdue leading Marshall after high-scoring first half

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The first play of Purdue’s 2015 season could not have gone any worse. The rest of the first half could not have gone much better.

Purdue quarterback Austin Appleby was intercepted by Marshall defensive back Tiquan Lang on the first play from scrimmage Sunday afternoon in Huntington, who returned it 30 yards for an easy Thundering Herd touchdown. The Boilermarkers controlled the rest of the half, though, and head to the break with a 21-17 lead.

The Boilers recovered well from the first-snap catastrophe, immediately driving 75 yards in 11 plays to tie the game on a four-yard D.J. Knox run. Marshall scored the next 10 points, registering a 20-yard touchdown pass from Michael Birdsong to running back Devon Johnson and a 42-yard Nick Johnson field goal.

Appleby answered with a pair of unanswered touchdowns to close the half, first hitting Danny Anthrop for a nine-yard score with 38 ticks left in the first quarter, then putting his club on top with a one-yard sneak at the 7:35 mark of the second quarter.

All three of Purdue’s scoring marches covered at least 72 yards.

Appleby has completed 19-of-27 passes for 174 yards with a touchdown and a pick, and Knox added 51 yards on 10 carries. Birdsong completed nine of his 14 throws for 80 yards and a touchdown, while Johnson led the Herd in rushing with seven carries for 36 yards. Marshall outrushed Purdue in the opening half 80-61.

Marshall will receive to open the second half.