Foster Farms Bowl Preview
Dec. 18, 2017

B1G BOWL PREVIEWS: Foster Farms | Pinstripe | Music City | Holiday | Outback | Fiesta | Orange | Cotton

Returning to the postseason for the first time since 2002, Purdue (6-6, 4-5 B1G) will meet Arizona (7-5, 5-4 Pac-12) in the Foster Farms Bowl at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Wednesday, Dec. 27.  Kickoff is set for 8:30 p.m. ET and will be televised by FOX. 

Purdue is set to play in its 18th bowl game and 12th in the last 20 seasons. The Boilermakers hold a 9-8 record in the previous 17 bowl games. It will also be Purdue’s fourth football trip to the Bay Area and first since losing 42-18 at California in 1991. The resurgence of the Boilermaker program has been tied to first-year head coach Jeff Brohm, who is perfect in the postseason. Having now coached his four teams to four bowl games, including three victories from 2014 to 2016 as the head man at Western Kentucky, Brohm is poised to position the Boilers for their first winning season since 2011. The team’s six wins could have been more when you figure that the six losses were by an average of 7.7 points, including one by one point and one by two points. Four of those losses came to ranked teams.

And while Purdue is under the watch of a first-year head coach, the program will be reunited with a familiar face as Arizona is coached by former Michigan head man Rich Rodriguez. The Boilermakers had success with Rodriguez’s past ballclubs, having tallied a 2-1 record against the Wolverines from 2008 to 2010.   His Wildcats are back in the postseason for the fifth time in the last six seasons, and have now gone bowling eight times in the past 10 seasons overall. Just was the case at Purdue, Arizona experienced quite the turnaround this season. The Wildcats were picked in the preseason by the media to finish last in the Pac-12.

The Foster Farms Bowl will be the third all-time meeting between the two teams as the Boilermakers have taken the previous two. Purdue throttled Arizona 59-7 in West Lafayette in 2003 and then responded with a 31-24 road win in Tucson in 2005.

This is the fifth season the Big Ten has been tied to the Foster Farms Bowl. Maryland lost to Stanford 45-21 in 2014, Nebraska defeated UCLA 37-29 in 2015 and Indiana lost to Utah 26-24 in 2016. In addition, Illinois defeated UCLA 20-14 in the 2011 when it was named the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.





Scoring Defense

Total Offense

Total Defense

Rushing Offense

Rushing Defense

Passing Offense

Passing Defense

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Purdue’s offense ranks sixth in the Big Ten in total yards (390.4) and passing (239.5), and ninth in rushing (150.9) and scoring (24.2). Sophomore quarterback Elijah Sindelar remains under center after starting the final three games of the season following the loss of starter David Blough to a season-ending injury. Sindelar has seven starts under his belt this season, but it was his play in the final three that got Purdue into the postseason. He was 22-of-37 passing for 229 yards and three touchdowns in a 24-15 victory at Iowa and then responded with a 15-of-29 effort for 159 yards and two scores while managing the Boilers’ emotional effort in the 31-24 Old Oaken Bucket win over Indiana that punched their ticket to the postseason. In that finale, Markell Jones carried the ball 31 times for 217 yards, while wideout Anthony Mahoungou finished his final two contests with 223 yards receiving and three touchdowns.

Arizona’s defense ranks ninth in the Pac-12 defending the run (187.3), 10th in total yards allowed (464.2) and scoring (34.1), and 12th against the pass (276.9). Of note, the Wildcats are 87th nationally in against the run, 109th in scoring defense, 116th in total defense, and 121st in pass defense. However, this Arizona defense loaded with underclassmen was also very opportunistic this year. Collectively, the defense forced 24 turnovers, led by 18 interceptions that ties for fifth-most nationally. Redshirt freshman Lorenzo Burns' five interceptions tie for most in the nation by a freshman. True freshmen linebackers Tony Fields II (91 tackles) and Colin Schooler (88 tackles) lead all Pac-12 freshmen in tackles. Schooler, who was especially productive in nine conference games, racking up all of his 13.5 tackles for loss and 4.0 sacks in league play, was tabbed named the Pac-12 Freshman Defensive Player of the Year. The Wildcats excel in the red zone, holding opponents to just a 75.4 percent scoring clip, which ranks second in the league and 19th nationally.

For as many yards and points the Arizona defense allowed this year, the Wildcats made up for it on the offensive side of the ball. Arizona led the Pac-12 in numerous offensive categories and ranked third nationally in rushing offense (324.4), sixth in scoring offense (41.8) and 12th in total offense (494.5). The team has totaled 30 offensive plays of at least 40 yards, which is the second-best tally in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Just as Purdue’s Sindelar has provided a spark late in the season, so too has Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate, who guided the Wildcats to a 5-3 record over the last eight games. He was named the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week four straight weeks and rushed for more yards in the month of October than any FBS player in the last year 10 years. He has passed for 1,289 yards and nine touchdowns on the season, with his main target being Shun Brown, who leads the Wildcats with 39 receptions, 511 yards and five touchdowns. Tate did more damage on the ground, however, with 1,353 yards and 12 rushing scores. His 135.3 rushing yards per game ranks sixth nationally. The line up front has provided quite the protection for Tate, as well as part-time tailbacks J.J. Taylor and Nick Wilson. Taylor, the Pac-12 Offensive Freshman of the Year, netted 828 yards and five touchdowns, while Wilson has tallied 585 yards and six touchdowns on the ground. The line paced the Pac-12 and tied for 14th among all FBS by allowing only 15 sacks this season.  

Defensively, Purdue ranks fourth in the Big Ten in scoring (19.3), seventh against the run (133.3), 10th in total yards allowed (370.9) and 13th defending the pass (237.6). The Boilermakers’ resurgence on defense has most notably been seen on the scoreboard as last year’s team ranked last in the Big Ten with 38.3 points allowed and now the Boilers boast the nation’s 18th-best scoring defense. The unit has also allowed just 10 rushing touchdowns this year, compared to Arizona’s offense that scampered for 48 TDs on the ground. Senior linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley is sixth in the Big Ten with 8.1 tackles per game, while also grossing 9.5 tackles for loss and one interception on the year. Senior defensive end Gelen Robinson owns a team-high 11.5 TFL, followed by sophomore linebacker Markus Bailey with 10.0. Bailey boasts a team-high seven sacks to go along with a pick and a fumble recovery this year. Senior linebacker Danny Ezechukwu has 7.0 TFL, 5.0 sacks, one interception, one forced fumble and three fumble recoveries.

On special teams, Arizona has shined in the return game. Shun Brown is second nationally with two punt return touchdowns and seventh-best with 12.9 yards per punt return. Tyrell Johnson is 17th nationally with 26.0 yards per kickoff return. Kicker Josh Pollack ranks ninth in the Pac-12 with a 73.3 field goal percentage. Purdue has blocked two punts and two field goals this year. Kicker J.D. Dellinger is seventh in the Big Ten in field goal percentage (75.0), while Joe Schopper is 12th in punting (40.2).