FB Edged by No. 16 Louisville

Sept. 3, 2017

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By Pete DiPrimio

INDIANAPOLIS - Purdue didn't shock the college football world.

But it could have.

The Boilers, 25.5-point underdogs, pushed No. 16 Louisville to the brink Saturday night before losing 35-28 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Jeff Brohm's Purdue coaching debut.

"They learned the fact that if you compete and believe in yourself, you can do it," Brohm said. "Not many gave us much hope. We had a chance to win. We found a way to keep it close. We came up short."

The Boilers found a way because of tenacity, effort and more.

"Football is a simple game," Brohm said. "Do you want to win? How bad do you want it? We have to build upon this. You can't expect it to happen again."

Expect to see more of it, quarterback Elijah Sindelar added.

"We keep fighting no matter what. That's going to be our MO. We're going to build on it. The way that the defense played, the way the offense kept fighting."

Next week Purdue won't face a Heisman Trophy winner as it did with Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson. He threw for 378 yards, rushed for 107 and added a pair of touchdown passes.

That offset Louisville's 16 penalties, 110 penalty yards and three fumbles.

"We were playing a Heisman Trophy winner," Brohm said. "For those who don't think he's the favorite, I beg to differ. He makes multiple guys miss, and he does it every week."

Still ...

Big Boiler plays came where you expected, and where you didn't - see punter Joe Schopper's two key tackles or under-sized receiver Jackson Anthrop's seven clutch catches for 82 yards and two touchdowns.

"We showed some fight," Brohm said. "We took it down to wire. We came up short. I'm proud of effort."

Brohm was hired last December to restore Purdue's football glory, and a rugged season opener added to the challenge.

You'd better believe the Boilers were up to it.

Did you see this coming?

Did anyone outside the Purdue locker room?

"You have to fight every Saturday," Anthrop said. "We might be the underdog most of the Saturdays. You have to fight, fight, fight. When you get put on your back, what else is there to do but fight?"

Brohm hit the graduate transfer market to boost the roster and it paid off with three starters -- linebacker T.J. McCollum, cornerback Josh Okonye and offensive lineman David Steinmetz (an imposing 6-8 and 310 pounds).

Brohm set a humility example by driving a scratched-up 2004 Honda Accord LX to work when most major college coaches who make millions of dollars a year drive vehicles that radiate prestige. The reason - he wanted to earn a high-end ride by delivering high-profile victories.

The Cardinals certainly met the high-profile opponent criteria.

Against that kind of fire power the Boilers needed the offensive line and receiving corps to emerge.

It didn't happen in August camp. Would it come under Lucas Oil Stadium's bright lights?

Yes, with more work needed.

Could quarterback David Blough, who missed most of camp because of a strained right (throwing) shoulder, make a Saturday night impact?

Absolutely, also with more work needed.

Sindelar got the quarterback start, played the first quarter and was 3-for-8 for 29 yards and a touchdown. Blough came in and looked strong until a pair of interceptions -- including a pick-6 -- got Sindelar a fourth-quarter chance.

He finished 15-for-31 for 118 yards, two touchdowns and one interception to Blough's 18-for-26 for 175 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.

"It was a close competition," Brohm said. "David missed two weeks of camp. Elijah did some good things. We planned to bring in David for two series, then we kept the hot hand.

"Turnovers are things we worked hard to improve upon. We still need work."

Work will include playing both quarterbacks.

"We'll let them compete," Brohm said. "Elijah can make plays. David does good things, too. The plan is keep playing them and let it play out. Hopefully, it makes our team better."

Added Sindelar: "When your number is called you've got to go in, and when it's not you have to support the other guy.

"Our defense played tremendous. They gave us the ball. We gave it back to Louisville. We can't have that. We'll eliminate that. We'll be fine."

As for getting his first college start, Sindelar said, "It was a lot of fun. It was beyond exciting to be out there."

One pre-game question was, could Purdue's strength -- a defense led by game-changing linebackers Ja'Whaun Bentley, Markus Bailey and McCollum -- rattle Jackson?

At times.

Jackson's opening-drive fumble at the Boiler 5-yard line was picked up by defensive end Danny Ezechukwu, who returned it 32 yards.

Early in the second quarter, Bentley forced a fumble inside the Purdue 5-yard line. Bailey returned it 19 yards.

Meanwhile, Purdue forced a first-quarter Louisville three-and-out, then tipped the punt to take possession inside the 40-yard line. The result -- a 26-yard touchdown pass from Sindelar to Anthrop. It was the first career touchdown for both.

The Boilers led 7-0.

Then Jackson went to work. He repeatedly turned apparent sacks into big pass plays. He threw a 3-yard touchdown pass, then led Louisville to a field goal and a 10-7 lead.

Blough responded in the second quarter by directing a 78-yard scoring drive, capped by 260-pound running back Richie Worship's tackle-busting 8-yard TD catch. Purdue ended the half ahead 14-10 even though it was out-gained 289-137.

Louisville got a 32-yard field goal early in the third quarter, and was driving on its next possession when Purdue forced another fumble - this one by a Bentley hit and recovered by safety Jacob Thieneman at the Louisville 41-yard line.

Purdue capitalized when Blough hit tight end Brycen Hopkins with a 2-yard TD pass for a 21-13 lead.

A couple of Purdue penalties -- including a targeting call on defensive end Lorenzo Neal that resulted in his ejection -- led to a Louisville touchdown. The conversion try failed. Purdue led 21-19 late in the third quarter.

The Cardinals regained the lead 25-21 when Blough threw a pick-6. Sindelar capitalized on his second chance by hitting Anthrop with a 14-yard TD pass. Purdue was back in front, 28-25 with 10:48 left.

Louisville went ahead 32-28 on Jackson's second touchdown pass, added a 30-yard field goal and withstood Purdue's final push.

The Boilers plan to keep pushing.

"It's a one-game season every time we step on the field," Brohm said. "When it's over you learn from it; you try to get better and try to win the next one. We have to show up ready to play, compete, fight, battle. It has to be visible every week."

The next one is Saturday against Ohio at Ross-Ade Stadium.

"Louisville is a good team and we played them well," Sindelar said. "Now we have to put it behind us. We have another one-game season next week against Ohio. I think we'll be all right."




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