As we continue our study of the Boilermakers, here are five of their players to keep an eye on for the Dec. 27 bowl game.
Elijah Sindelar, QB, No. 2
Sindelar was named the starter after David Blough suffered a season-ending leg injury against Illinois in Week 10. Prior to Blough’s injury, the Purdue offense used a combination of the two QBs to provide more versatility in the backfield. Blough is a dual-threat quarterback whereas Sindelar is a pro-style quarterback with a strong arm.
The Boilermakers were 4-5 before Sindelar took over as the full-time quarterback and, he was able to lead the team to bowl eligibility. During that stretch, he completed 58.7 percent of his passes on 126 attempts, compiling 764 yards and seven touchdowns with only one interception. He will try to keep this groove going against a Wildcats defense that allows 464 yards per game.
Anthony Mahoungou, WR, No. 21
There has been an uptick in action for Mahoungou since Sindelar was named the starter. During the first nine games of the season, Mahoungou tallied 322 receiving yards and two touchdowns on 22 catches. Over the final three games regular season games, Mahoungou recorded 12 receptions, 248 yards and four touchdowns. Four of those catches have been for 35 yards or more compared to only two in his previous nine games. He is a big play waiting to happen.
Ja’Whaun Bentley, LB, No. 4
Bentley is the emotional and statical leader of Purdue’s defense. He leads the team in tackles (89) and ranks third in tackles for loss (9.5). There’s also a 76-yard interception return for a touchdown on his résumé. As a result of this tremendous senior season, Pro Football Focus recognized Benley as a First Team All-American and Big 10 Selection. He was also voted as an All Big 10 Honorable Mention by the Big 10 coaches.
The most exciting matchup to watch in this contest will be Bentley on Khalil Tate. It is almost a guarantee that he will be tasked with keeping Tate’s running game in check.
Danny Ezechukwu, DE, No. 36
Ezechukwu is another senior leader on this defense. He was a Big Ten Honorable Mention. The defensive end was one of only two players (the other being Markus Bailey, a sophomore linebacker) to record a tackle for a loss, sack, interception, pass breakup, forced fumble, and fumble recovery. Ezechukwu can do it all and wants nothing more than to finish his college career on a three-game winning streak.
Gelen Robinson, DT, No. 13
Gelen is the son of former No. 1 overall NBA draft pick, Glenn Robinson. However, football was the chosen path over basketball and it looks like he made a smart decision. The younger Robinson was named third-team All-Big Ten, the only Boilermaker to be selected any of the conference’s first, second or third teams. Robinson is Purdue’s leader in tackles for loss (11.5) and has also recorded four sacks.