Khalil Tate threw for five touchdowns and the Arizona Wildcats’ defense only allowed seven second-half points, but those seven points were all the Purdue Boilermakers needed to win the Foster Farms Bowl.
Elijah Sindelar connected with Anthony Mahoungou for a 38-yard go-ahead touchdown with 1:44 left in the fourth to lift Purdue to a 38-35 victory in Santa Clara, Calif.
The Wildcats finish the season 7-6 and losers of four of their last five. Mahoungou’s game-winning grab ended UA’s comeback bid.
After trailing 31-14 at the half, the Wildcats roared back to take a 35-31 lead with 3:21 left in regulation thanks to a 24-yard TD pass from Tate to Shun Brown.
But the UA defense, which had not given up any second-half points before Sindelar led Purdue on an eight-play, 75-yard game-winning drive, could not get one last stop to seal the victory.
They were oh so close, though.
Two plays before Mahoungou reached over UA cornerback Lorenzo Burns for the game-winning grab, UA defensive end/tight end Trevor Wood dropped a would-be game-sealing interception from Sindelar that kept the Boilermakers’ drive alive.
Tate and company had a chance to tie or win the game after Mahoungou’s touchdown, but the UA quarterback was picked off after two incompletions, allowing Purdue to escape with the win.
Before that interception, Tate had plenty of success through the air, throwing for 302 yards and five touchdowns.
Purdue’s stingy run defense did hold Tate to 58 rushing yards on 20 carries, though, and the UA only had 128 rushing yards in total.
While Arizona’s defense turned in an admirable second half performance, that was after it was gashed repeatedly in the first half.
Sindelar, playing with a torn ACL, threw for 244 yards and three touchdowns in the first two quarters, and finished 33-53 for 396 yards, four touchdowns, and an interception.
Mahoungou had six catches for 118 yards and two touchdowns, while Gregory Phillips had 14 catches for 149 yards and two touchdowns.
Arizona outgained Purdue 202-184 in the second half, but was outgained 371-228 in the first half.
Arizona went 3-and-out to begin the game, then Mahoungou scored on a 31-yard catch-and-run after Jace Whittaker missed a tackle to put the Boilermakers up 7-0 less than four minutes into the game.
Tate threw a floating 31-yard pass touchdown pass to Shawn Poindexter to tie it, then, after Arizona’s defense stuffed Purdue on 4th and 1 on its own 38, Tate threw a beautiful over-the-shoulder ball to Tony Ellison for a 29-yard TD to give the UA a 14-7 lead with 4:09 left in the first.
The first half was all Boilermakers after that, scoring 24 unanswered points, including two TD grabs by Phillips. Purdue’s offense took advantage of poor coverage, a lack of a pass rush, subpar tackling and ... a questionable call.
On 4th and 3 deep in Purdue territory, J.J. Taylor was flagged for roughing the punter (there wasn’t much contact), keeping the Boilermakers’ drive alive. A drive that eventually ended with Sindelar finding Phillips for a 22-yard touchdown to put the Boilermakers up 21-14.
Purdue also tried several trick plays and finally got one to work at the end of the first half.
After Tate fumbled in Purdue territory (another costly miscue), the Boilermakers used a fake kneel handoff which resulted in a 30-yard gain and, eventually, a 26-yard field goal to increase their lead to 31-14 heading into the locker room.
But the Wildcats quickly turned things around in the third quarter and made it a game.
Tate connected with Ellison on a 40-yard touchdown pass down the middle to cut Purdue’s lead to 31-21 early in the third. Then, after an interception by Scottie Young Jr. on a tipped ball, Tate found Tyrell Johnson deep down the field for a 40-yard touchdown to make it 31-28 with 6:31 left in the third.
Arizona’s offense had three straight three-and-outs after that — it punted on 4th and inches at its own 36 after calling a timeout on one of them — but UA’s defense held firm until a wide open Brown hauled in a 24-yard pass in the back of the end zone to give UA the lead with 3:21 left in the fourth.
That appeared to be enough for the Wildcats, who had only allowed 109 yards in the second half heading into Purdue’s final drive, but they were unable to close the game out.
Other notable stat lines
- Jace Whittaker: 12 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 3 pass breakups
- Tony Fields II: 13 tackles, 1 sack, 1 TFL
- Dane Cruikshank: 8 tackles, 1 sack
- Lorenzo Burns: 6 tackles, 1 sack
- Tony Ellison: 4 catches, 102 yards, 2 touchdown
- Shawn Poindexter: 5 catches, 71 yards, 1 touchdown