Elijah Sindelar wasn't Purdue's full-time quarterback all year, but he was the reason for the team's first bowl win since 2011.
After the Boilermakers squandered their 17-point halftime lead, the sophomore quarterback threw his fourth touchdown pass of the day with just over a minute remaining to help clinch a 38-35 win over Arizona in the Foster Farms Bowl at Levi's Stadium Wednesday night.
Purdue ended the year with three straight wins behind Sindelar to finish 7-6, the program's first winning record in six seasons. Head coach Jeff Brohm is now 4-0 in his career in bowl games in four years as an FBS head coach.
Arizona fell to 7-6 with the loss, a disappointing finish for a squad that began the year with a 6-2 record.
Purdue looked like it would dominate this game with a 31-14 lead at halftime, but the Wildcats came through with 21 straight points to take the lead with 3:21 remaining.
However, Sindelar connected with Anthony Mahoungou for the go-ahead score with 1:44 left on the clock. The receiver's second touchdown of the game was one of his best plays of the year, via Fox College Football:
Sindelar, who had to battle David Blough for playing time for much of the year until the latter went down with a leg injury in early November, came through with his best performance of his career with 396 passing yards on 33-of-53 passing.
His only interception came off the hands of the receiver.
His play was enough to outduel Arizona's Khalil Tate, who is likely to be on plenty of lists for the 2018 Heisman Trophy. The quarterback had been a star with his legs all year, entering the day with 1,353 rushing yards and an FBS-best 10.2 yards per carry. He had nowhere to run in this one, though, with Purdue holding him to 58 yards on 20 carries.
He found a way to make an impact with his arm instead, setting new career highs with 302 passing yards and five touchdown passes.
He wasn't afraid to throw the ball downfield with the defense stacking the line, as the Arizona Twitter account showed:
After trailing by 17 points at halftime, the team refused to panic and worked its way back into the lead. However, a great final drive by Purdue and an ensuing interception ended any chance of the Wildcats' coming away with the victory.
The Boilermakers didn't have a perfect showing, but big players came through when needed.
Gregory Phillips was Sindelar's top target throughout the day despite coming in as the team's fifth-leading receiver with zero touchdowns this season. The senior stepped up in his final appearance and finished with 14 catches for 149 yards and two scores.
Nathan Baird of the Journal & Courier described the effort:
The defense was also impressive despite allowing 430 yards from scrimmage. Arizona was the No. 6 scoring offense in the country this year with the No. 3 rushing attack, but the team only averaged 3.0 yards per carry on the ground.
Chris Vannini of The Athletic credited the head coach for the team's effort this season:
A program that hasn't showed much in recent years is suddenly moving in the right direction.
With both teams led by competent sophomore quarterbacks and a lot of young talent on both sides, they each could be looking to make noise in their respective conferences in 2018.