SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Elijah Sindelar threw a 38-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Mahoungou with 1:44 remaining and Purdue capped coach Jeff Brohm's first season in dramatic style with a 38-35 victory over Arizona in the Foster Farms Bowl on Wednesday.
"It's huge," Sindelar said. "It sets the tone for next year. Guys are in good spirits. They'll be excited to go into spring ball instead of kind of moping around because we lost. We won, we got a winning record, we really flipped it around from last year. I couldn't be more excited. "
The Boilermakers (7-6) had squandered a 17-point halftime lead when Khalil Tate threw his fifth touchdown pass with 3:21 remaining to give the Wildcats (7-6) the lead.
But Sindelar responded with a 75-yard drive that ended with the deep throw into the end zone to Mahoungou, giving the Boilermakers their first winning record since 2011 and first bowl win over a major conference team since beating Washington in the 2002 Sun Bowl. Purdue had won only nine games in the previous four seasons before Brohm arrived.
"That's a memory you'll cherish for the rest of your life," Brohm said "They definitely earned it because they put in the hard work, have gone through the adversity and continued to hang in there."
Sindelar threw for 396 yards and four touchdowns, with Mahoungou (118 yards) and Gregory Phillips (149) each topping the 100-yard mark and catching two touchdown passes.
Tate was just as good, showing he can win with his arm as well as he can with his legs that carried him to 1,353 yards rushing in the regular season. Tate threw for 302 yards and five touchdowns, but his late interception to Jacob Thieneman ended the comeback attempt.
"They made one more play than we did at the end to win," Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez said. "It's pretty simple. Give them credit, but I'm also pretty excited about the future."
Brohm pulled out all the stops, going for it three times on fourth down, calling a couple of flea-flickers and using an innovative trick play to set up a field goal at the end of the first half that made it 31-14.
The Boilermakers took over at their 32-yard line with 56 seconds left after Tate lost a fumble. Purdue appeared to be taking a knee on the play to run out the clock, but running back D.J. Knox was crouching hidden behind a guard. Sindelar then handed the ball to Knox, who waited an instant and then ran around left end for a 30-yard gain that helped set up the field goal.
"One of the officials told our guy, 'They're taking a knee don't rush. Just stand there," Rodriguez said. "They complied with that and they ran a little trick play. My argument would be if it's an official's error, which in my opinion it was, it's a no play."