Purdue beats Western Michigan 37-32 in Pizza Bowl

Purdue coach Danny Hope sold school officials on his vision of

winning with special teams when they picked him to replace the

retiring Joe Tiller after the 2008 season.

That facet of the game helped the Boilermakers beat Western

Michigan 37-32 on Tuesday night in the Little Caesars Bowl.

Purdue recovered two onside kicks and Raheem Mostert returned a

kickoff 99 yards for a score that put Purdue up for good midway

through the second quarter.

”The spread offense was the edge (with Tiller),” Hope said.

”I wanted our edge to be special teams.”

Caleb TerBush took the final snap at Ford Field in Detroit,

sprinted to the sideline and handed the football to Hope, who was

recently given a contract extension.

”It’s a moment that we’ve been waiting for the last three

years,” Hope said.

The Boilermakers (7-6) almost didn’t beat the Broncos (7-6)

despite having a double-digit lead for two-plus quarters.

Third-string running back Reggie Pegram scored the first two TDs

of his career and Carson Wiggs made two field goals to help Purdue

to take a 27-15 lead in the first half.

Wiggs also recovered one of his onside kicks, both of which he

tapped toward a sideline after running at full speed as if he was

trying to boot the ball deep.

”Two onside kicks really hurt us,” Western Michigan coach Bill

Cubit said. ”We never got a break on defense in the first

half.”

Purdue had another 12-point lead early in the fourth quarter,

but the Big Ten team had to hold on for the win against the

Mid-American Conference program.

The Broncos got the ball with a chance to go ahead, but their

comeback hopes ended when quarterback Alex Carder fumbled for his

fifth turnover with just under 2 minutes left. Ryan Russell forced

the final fumble and Bruce Gaston recovered to seal the win.

”It was nerve-racking,” Purdue linebacker Joe Holland said.

”But as a defender, you want the game to come to you.”

The Boilermakers played in a bowl for the first time since 2007,

when they beat Central Michigan – also in Detroit.

Western Michigan, meanwhile, fell to 0-5 in postseason play.

”I thought we’d win and walk out of here happy,” Cubit

said.

Purdue’s Akeem Shavers ran for a career-high 148 yards on 22

carries, filling in for the injured Ralph Bolden, and was named the

game’s MVP.

TerBush was 8 of 13 for 101 yards with a 33-yard touchdown pass

to Gary Bush midway through the third quarter that put Purdue up

34-18. Robert Marve was 6 of 7 for 76 yards with a 1-yard scoring

pass to Pegram in the first quarter.

Purdue defensive end Gerald Gooden had two of his team’s four

interceptions, and gave back one of those two turnovers back to the

Broncos in a game filled with miscues and missed opportunities for

both teams.

Western Michigan’s star receiver, Jordan White, who drew at

least one NFL scout to watch him, caught 13 passes – including a

one-handed grab – for 249 yards and a score. He was given a sixth

season of eligibility this year because of injuries.

”We’re about 10 points from being 10-3,” said White, who set

MAC marks for yards receiving in a season and career. ”I think we

had all the pieces to the puzzle but we didn’t make it happen on

the field.”

Carder was 31 of 57 for 413 yards with three TDs. But the junior

matched a career high with four interceptions and gave up the ball

a fifth time to end the Broncos’ chances to rally in their home

state in front of tens of thousands of their fans.

The Purdue headed back across the border to Indiana happy,

especially school officials who added two years to Hope’s deal last

week to keep him under contract through 2016.

”Big difference between being a bowl participant and a bowl

champion,” Hope said. ”It builds great momentum for our team and

will give us a shot in the arm with recruiting and will energize

our fan base.”