DETROIT — The gray sky that hovered over the home of the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl and the home the Detroit Lions – Ford Field, did no damage to dampen the spirit of the fans that followed their team to the Motown.
Both teams having strong ties in the Midwest, one team coming from the historical Big Ten Conference with a overall record of 6-6 and a third place finish in the Leaders Division, Purdue University and from the Mid-American Conference Western Michigan University.
Both teams with one goal and that is to be a bowl game champion.
The Broncos finish the season in third place in the West Division with a 5-3 conference record and 7-5 overall and accepting the bid to represent the Mid-American Conference at the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl just seem like a natural thing to do for Western Michigan University football coach Bill Cubit to accept.
“I am very proud of this football team making it happen at this great bowl event. We talked about it at length, there is a huge difference at being 7-6 than 6-7,” Purdue University football coach Danny Hope said. “It was a wild one that is for sure and it was a lot of fun.”
A highly entertaining game with special team play and turnovers creating edge of the seat drama and it was a fumble by Western Michigan University quarterback Alex Carder scrambling out of the pocket with just two minutes left in the game that ended the Broncos hopes of getting a victory.
Purdue University in front of 46,177 in side Ford Field defeated Western Michigan University 37-32, to take home the Little Caesar Pizza Bowl Trophy back to campus in West Lafayette, Indiana.
Many football coaches say if you can get points from special team play it is like getting extra icing on the cake.
“It was an easy decision obviously we have a great committment to the special team,” Hope said about the special team play. “Our edge is our special team.”
Purdue University special team recovered two onside kicks setting up two touchdown drives and the Boilermakers also got a 99-yard kickoff return by Raheem Mostert, the longest in Purdue bowl game history.
“I got a chance and I seen daylight,” Mostert said about his 99 yard touchdown run. “I got touched but I seen the opportunity to bust one open.”
The odds of covering the on side kick is a large nomber but the odds of covering two the odds have to be even larger but the Boilermakers beat the odds.
“The first one was a big time miss hit sometime it is good to be lucky,” Purdue place kicker Carson Wiggs said about the first on side kick. “They did not change their line up so we did it again.”
We have a special team coordinator,” Wiggs said. “It is his job to make adjustment and I think we showed he is well worth it.”
Western Michigan University defense created the first break of the day, by sacking Purdue University starting quarterback Caleb TerBush got caught by defensive end Paul Hazel and forced a fumbled that was recovered by Bronco linebacker Mitch Zajac that set up the first score of the day.
With the ball setting at the 49 yard line, Western Michigan University quarterback Carder found a streaking wide receiver Jordan White and the pass from Carder fell gently and in stride and White did the rest.
White finished the game owning the Little Pizza Bowl record for reception yardage and for receptions with 13 catches for 265 yards.
The Broncos special team reached into their own bag of tricks and used a fake point after attempt to score two points after the 49-yard touchdown pass.
Bronco place kicker John Potter took a direct snap from Kirk Nakama and ran up the middle untouched to give the Broncos an 8-0 lead.
Late in the first quarter Purdue University free safety Albert Evans intercepted a Carder passing attempt and the Boilermaker offense turned the turn over into a touchdown.
Carder threw the ball 57 times and completed 31 for 439 yards but four interception made the day a tough one for Carder.
In the second quarter Purdue University senior quarterback Robert Marve found wide receiver Antavian Edison for a 1-yard touchdown pass for the Boilermakers’ touchdown.
Bronco’s linebacker Zajac forced a fumble by Akeem Hunt and the ball recovered by the Broncos’ Chris Prom but Carder threw an interception into the waiting hands of Gerald Gooden giving the Boilermakers back the ball, ending the threat.
Purdue did not waste the chance to get a score off of the turnover, the scoring drive just went three yards and four plays ending when Boilermaker place kicker Wiggs 49-yard field goal sailed through the uprights and giving Purdue the lead.
Purdue’s offense scored 20 points in the second quarter taking a 27-15 lead into the locker room at halftime.
In the first half, Western Michigan University turn the ball over too many times and gave Purdue University excellent field position.
The second half started with Cubit and the Broncos getting the ball and the offensive game plan is simple enough – just hold on to the ball and get more points.
Cubit needed the Bronco offense to take the opening kickoff of the second half and score a touchdown and establish some momentum.
The Broncos did move the ball 66 yards in nine plays but had to settle for a Potter 21 yard field goal.
Cubit needed the Bronco defense to contain Purdue running back Akeem Shavers but the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl Most Valuable Player ran through the Bronco defense 22 times for 149 yards.
Purdue’s offense made a total of 77 plays for a total yardage of 442 yards but the Boilermaker quarterbacks did not throw an interception, only throwing the ball 21 times and completing 15 passes.
Purdue ran for 265 yards while the Bronco running game could only gain 46 yards for the entire game.
Western Michigan University committed seven turnovers which did not help the Broncos’ game plan Cubit said that the special team play made a huge impact.
Cubit said the Broncos will be back and that the gray and cold day will be replaced by a better day tomorrow.
About the Author
Written by Mel Suiter
Graduated from Eastern Michigan University in 2002 and have been working as a beat writer for The Ypsilanti Courier covering Eastern Michigan University football and men's basketball during my school career and after graduation. I like the Mid-American Conference and the rest of the mid-major conferences.