DETROIT (AP) — Western Michigan started strong and closed with a shot to earns its first bowl win in school history.
Letting Purdue recover two onside kicks in the first half doomed the Broncos’ chances.
The Boilermakers made two gambles on special teams pay off in a 37-32 win over Western Michigan on Tuesday night in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl.
“Two onside kicks really hurt us,” Western Michigan coach Bill Cubit said. “We never got a break on defense in the first half.”
Purdue’s Raheem Mostert returned a kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown, third-string running back Reggie Pegram scored the first two TDs of his career and Carson Wiggs made two field goals to give the Boilermakers a 27-15 lead at halftime.
Purdue (7-6) had another 12-point lead early in the fourth quarter, but the Big Ten team had to hold on for the win against the Mid-American Conference program.
The Broncos (7-6) got the ball with a chance to go ahead, but their comeback hopes ended when quarterback Alex Carder fumbled for his fifth turnover with just under 2 minutes left.
“I took too many chances with the ball,” Carder said.
Ryan Russell forced the final fumble and Bruce Gaston recovered to seal the win in a game that entertained 46,177 fans inside the home of the Detroit Lions.
The Boilermakers played in a bowl for the first time since 2007, when they beat Central Michigan — also in Detroit.
Western Michigan, which had leads of 8-0 and 15-10 in the first half along with an opportunity to drive for a go-ahead score at the end, fell to 0-5 in postseason play.
Western Michigan’s star receiver, Jordan White, who drew at least one NFL scout to watch him, caught 13 passes — including a one-handed grab — for 249 yards and a score. He was given a sixth season of eligibility this year because of injuries.
Carder was 31 of 57 for 413 yards with three TDs — also connecting with Josh Schaffer and Chleb Ravenell for scores. But the junior matched a career high with four interceptions and gave up the ball a fifth time to end the Broncos’ chances to rally for the victory in their homestate in front of many of their fans.