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2017 Foster Farms Bowl: Breaking Down Purdue’s Final Drive

Elijah Sindelar channeled Drew Brees and it was awesome!

NCAA Football: Foster Farms Bowl-Arizona vs Purdue Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

Like I said last night, we have seen this before.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Purdue gets an early big lead over a favored opponent. A series of mistakes (two poor snaps on punts in 1998, dropped passes last night) keeps the opponent in the game. Opponent takes a late lead, its first of the game, with not much time left (1:24 left in 1998, 3:21 last night) to seize momentum and the game before giving the ball back to a stalled offense.

In both games Purdue trailed by 4, so a field goal would do no good. In both games Purdue had to drive the length of the field after a touchback. Both drives were almost the same length (7 plays 80 yards in 1998, 8 plays, 75 yards last night). Both were led by sophomore QBs that were largely unheard of nationally before said drives. Both drives had underrated plays to keep them alive, too. Let’s look at both. Also, if you want to watch them side by side here is the link to the Alamo Bowl (fast forward to 2:53:51) and last night’s game.

Play 1:

1998: 1st and 10 at the Purdue 20 – Brees attempts his 49th pass of the game, but is incomplete to Isaac Jones over the middle. It is a good thing too, as Jones was going to get tackled in bounds well short of the first down.

2017: 1st and 10 at the Purdue 25 – Sindelar hits Gregory Phillips for his 13th reception, this one going for 8 yards.

Play 2:

1998: 2nd and 10 at the Purdue 20 – Brees tries to go for an open Randall Lane at the 30, but his pass is low and incomplete.

2017: 2nd and 2 at the Purdue 33 – Another pitch and catch play for 8 yards to Phillips. Purdue has more time and the drive is off to a more promising start, as the Boilers convert a first down.

Play 3:

1998: 3rd and 10 at the Purdue 20 – And so the Legend begins. With a roaring K-State crowd and Purdue riding a 2 of 16 on 3rd down conversion streak, Brees finds Chris Daniels for 11 yards and a 1st down. Daniels makes the catch in traffic and Purdue is alive.

2017: 1st and 10 at the Purdue 41 – It is Sindelar’s turn for a pair of incompletions. Here he tried to go to Anthony Mahoungou, but it is incomplete.

Play 4:

1998: 1st and 10 at the Purdue 31 – With 1:05 left Purdue talks advantage of the clock stopped to move the chains. Brees, with some mojo now, finds Randall Lane for 19 yards and another 1st down to midfield.

2017: 2nd and 10 at the Purdue 41 – Another incompletion. This time Sindelar tries to go to Brycen Hopkins, but it is incomplete.

Play 5:

1998: 1st and 10 at the 50 – Brees tries to go to Daniels, but Daniels is held by Lamar Chapman before he can break for the pass. Purdue gets a 1st down on the 15 yard penalty.

2017: 3rd and 10 at the Purdue 41 – This was the underrated play of the drive and maybe the night. With his receivers covered downfield, facing 3rd and long, and we had struggled all game on third downs (5 of 17 to that point), Sindelar has to dump off to D.J. Knox. Knox is able to break a tackle and scoot up the sideline for a huge 21 yard gain. This was a play where Arizona should have stopped Purdue well short, but didn’t. It keeps the drive alive where Purdue may have been forced to punt and play defense.

Play 6:

1998: 1st and 10 at the Kansas State 35 – The pocket collapses around Brees, but he escapes for a big run (as he always seemed to do). He gets a first down, then dives out of bounds (barely) after gaining 10 yards to stop the clock with 36 seconds left.

2017: 1st and 10 at the Arizona 38 – This was almost a disaster. Sindelar tries to find Brycen Hopkins again, but the defensive end drops back into coverage and drops what should have been an interception. It wasn’t because the guy is a defensive end.

Play 7:

1998: 1st and 10 at the Kansas State 25 – Isaac Jones beats his man on a post and Brees drops a dime over coverage for the TD. Just a beautiful throw by a man who is likely going to own all NFL passing records soon and will go down in history as the most prolific QB to play the game.

2017: 2nd and 10 at the Arizona 38 - This was nearly a disaster as well. Kirk Barron makes a wild snap past Sindelar. Sindelar (playing on a torn ACL mind you) tracks down the ball and instead of falling on it, picks it up and somehow finds Mahoungou for a completion. It gained no yardage, but it was avoiding a huge loss on second down that was bigger.

Play 8:

1998: Travis Dorsch kicks the extra point. Given our special teams and long snapping struggles in this game, let’s just make this play 8.

2017: 3rd and 10 at the Arizona 38 – Like Brees, it is a throw down the field into 1-on-1 coverage. Mahoungou has to work a lot harder than Jones. Jones was hit in stride. Mahoungou does a great job of coming back to the ball and fending off Lorenzo Burns to not only catch the ball at the 4, but fight his way into the end zone with it. Burns is no joke, either. He had 6 tackles and a sack in the game and five interceptions on the season as a redshirt freshman. Mahoungou outfought him for the ball for five yards and won.

the similarities didn’t end there. Purdue sealed both games with an interception by a safety that had been maligned all game. in 1998 it was John Reeves, a former QB who moved to safety and was playing his final career game. Last night it was Jacob Theineman, a walk-on who was banged up early last night and ended up tying for the team lead in picks.

We all know what happened to Brees. It’s been 19 years since that night in San Antonio and he just passed 70,000 yards in his NFL career, but I still remember this as when his Legend really started. He needs 1,741 yards to break the NFL yardage record, 101 completions for the completions record, 906 attempts for the attempts record, and 53 touchdowns for the TDs record (though he is only 1 ahead of Tom Brady for 3rd place right now). If he plays just one more season the yardage and completions records are toast. If he plays two more he probably gets the other two. He already owns the best completion percentage in NFL history at 66.9% too, with peers Manning, Favre, and Brady not even close. (surprisingly Chad Pennington is No. 2 at 66.0%)

What about Sindelar. I am not going to say Sindelar is the next Brees. It is WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYYYY too early for that, especially when he needs ACL surgery and David Blough could end up starting over him next season. Sindelar did become a Purdue legend last night, however. It has been a long time since we have been able to induct a new member into the Cradle of Quarterbacks. Sindelar (and Blough, whose final chapter has yet to be written, but he does have more than 6,000 career passing yards for 7th in school history) might be next.