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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.