MTSU just short in 27-24 loss at Purdue
Just a few inches prevented Middle Tennessee from grasping the big-time win it has coveted.
The Blue Raiders trailed Purdue 27-24 in the final seconds on Saturday when Logan Kilgore launched a deep pass to Malcolm Beyah in the back of the end zone. Beyah touched the ball as he reached the end line, but he couldn't haul it in with five seconds remaining.
"Malcolm got by (his defender) a little bit and had a chance," MTSU coach Rick Stockstill said. "I don't know if it would have been out of bounds or in bounds."
On the next play, Middle Tennessee went for the tie, but Purdue's Ricardo Allen blocked a 47-yard field-goal attempt by Alan Gendreau to end the game.
Kilgore passed for 330 yards and two touchdowns, Beyah caught four passes for 89 yards and a touchdown and Benny Cunningham had 105 yards from scrimmage for MTSU.
Even with 460 yards of offense, the Blue Raiders couldn't quite pull the upset.
"It kicks you in the gut right now, you're sick to your stomach that you lost the game, and it's hard to find a positive right now because of that," Stockstill said.
Eventually, the team was able to put it in perspective.
"It's not disappointing at all," Kilgore said. "I think it's extremely encouraging. We see great things in our future. I couldn't be more proud of our offense, of our o-line, of our defense, our special teams. I'm extremely excited. There's nothing disappointing about this game."
Purdue, trailing 24-20, got a late defensive stop to earn a shot at the win, and Caleb TerBush led the Boilermakers 85 yards in 11 plays. His 35-yard touchdown pass to Antavian Edison came with 49 seconds left. That set up the frantic ending that nearly gave the Blue Raiders their first win against a Big Ten team. The Sun Belt Conference member fell to 0-4 all-time against the Big Ten, including a 24-17 loss to Minnesota in last season's opener.
Purdue trailed 17-10 when running back Akeem Shavers went 30 yards up the middle for a touchdown to tie the score with 11:44 to play.
Middle Tennessee came right back with a 60-yard touchdown drive. Tavarres Jefferson made back-to-back outstanding catches for first downs, then two plays later, Cunningham finished the drive with a 2-yard scoring run to give Middle Tennessee a 24-17 lead with 9:26 to go.
Purdue had a third-and-1 at the MTSU 21 before getting called for a false start. TerBush was sacked on the next play, so Purdue settled for a 47-yard field goal by Carson Wiggs that trimmed MTSU's lead to 24-20 with 5:57 remaining.
The first break for either team came when Allen fumbled and Middle Tennessee recovered at the Purdue 22. On third-and-14, Kilgore found Beyah for a 26-yard touchdown pass to put the Blue Raiders up 7-0.
Wiggs made a 50-yard field goal later in the quarter, his fifth of at least 50 yards during his career, to cut MTSU's lead to 7-3.
Eric Russell intercepted a pass by TerBush early in the second quarter and returned it 34 yards to the Purdue 45, but the Blue Raiders couldn't take advantage. The Boilermakers responded with a 12-play, 98-yard drive. TerBush rolled right and found running back Jared Crank in the end zone for a 2-yard touchdown pass to give Purdue a 10-7 lead with 7:32 left in the second quarter.
Middle Tennessee came back later in the quarter with a 95-yard drive. This time, Kilgore found Sancho McDonald for a 21-yard score to give MTSU a 14-10 lead with 2:10 left in the first half.
Purdue caught a break when Gendreau missed a 39-yard field goal late in the third quarter. He made a 42-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter, extending MTSU's lead to 17-10.
Purdue scored 17 points and gained 192 yards in the fourth quarter.
"They did a good job towards the end," Stockstill said of Purdue. "Their size and strength kind of overpowered us a little bit down there. They wore us down a little bit."
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/cliffbruntap