Western Michigan takes on Purdue in Pizza Bowl

Western Michigan coach Bill Cubit was thrilled after he found

out his team would be playing in a bowl close to home.

The Broncos don’t even have to leave the state to play in the

Little Caesars Pizza Bowl on Tuesday against Purdue at Detroit’s

Ford Field.

”It’s a perfect situation for us as a university,” Cubit said.

”Our alumni can get to the game. Our student body can get to the

game. Our fans will be able to travel, a lot more families can be

at the game than if we went somewhere else.”

If last weekend was any indication, Cubit can expect a friendly

reception. A contingent from Purdue’s team was shown taking in

Saturday’s Lions-Chargers game at Ford Field and greeted with

plenty of boos. Then a group from Western Michigan was introduced

to loud cheers.

Still, the Broncos (7-5) will need more than supportive fans to

beat Purdue. Western Michigan hasn’t beaten a Big Ten team since

2008, although the Broncos did play Illinois tough in a 23-20

defeat in September.

Purdue is returning to a bowl for the first time since 2007,

when the Boilermakers beat Central Michigan 51-48 in this same

bowl. Another shootout is certainly possible. Western Michigan has

scored at least 38 points seven times this season, including a

66-63 loss to Toledo last month.

”Looking at Western Michigan on film, they can score some

points,” Purdue coach Danny Hope said. ”They’re obviously on the

cutting edge of the spread offense. It’s very similar to what we

ran at Purdue when I coached there before, and we had Drew Brees.

… It’s very similar in a lot of ways – the play calling, the

styles, the protections. They’re a high-scoring football team, so

we’d better be ready to score some points.”

Hope is in his third season at the helm for the Boilermakers

(6-6) and is taking them to a bowl for the first time. He was

rewarded recently with a two-year contract extension through the

end of 2016.

Purdue won two of its last three regular-season games, including

a victory over Ohio State, to become bowl eligible.

”I think it’s a great opportunity for our football team to take

another step in our development,” Hope said earlier this month.

”I hope and anticipate we’ll play the best game we’ve played all

year.”

Western Michigan is led by wide receiver Jordan White, a

third-team All-American who has 127 catches for 1,646 yards and 16

touchdowns on the season. Although he’s played in relative

obscurity in the Mid-American Conference, this will be a chance for

White to shine on a bigger stage.

”We played Michigan and we played Illinois, and we really

should have won down there at Illinois. Unfortunately, we came up

short down there,” White said. ”Everybody’s happy with where

we’re at. When we have that kind of confidence, we can take down

big-time teams.”

Purdue, however, will look at this matchup as a challenge.

Cornerback Ricardo Allen and the rest of the defensive backfield

will try to stop White. Hope said defensive backs Taylor Richards

and Landon Feichter could play more than usual because of Western

Michigan’s offensive style.

On offense, Caleb TerBush has handled most of the passing this

season for the Boilermakers. Third on the depth chart at the

beginning of the season, he earned Hope’s confidence as the two

players ahead of him recovered from injuries.

”He has done a fantastic job,” Hope said. ”He’s really grown

and developed through the course of the season.”