Broncos, Boilermakers put on quite a show

John Potter had made a Mid-American Conference record 126 consecutive point-after attempts heading into Tuesday's Little Caesars Pizza Bowl at Ford Field.
Matt DeYoung
Dec 28, 2011

So when he lined up behind holder Ben Armer after the Broncos’ first touchdown of the night, there was no reason to expect anything but another booming kick splitting the uprights.

Instead, as Potter made his approach, Armer flipped the ball up to the Grand Haven High School graduate. Potter, a wide receiver in high school, knows what to do with the ball in his hands. He dashed through a hole at the line of scrimmage and into the end zone, completing the surprising two-point conversion.

That was the first in a game packed full of spectacular plays as the Broncos and the Purdue Boilermakers put on a terrific show for the 46,000 fans who packed the lower level, and much of the upper deck, of Ford Field in Detroit.

The game featured over 900 yards of total offense, four interceptions, 10 fumbles, a flea flicker for a long touchdown, and a double pass that nearly resulted in another.

The Boilermakers returned a Potter kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown; then, on the ensuing kickoff, surprised the Broncos with their second onside kick try in as many possessions. They recovered both.

There were dazzling catches and even more spectacular tackles, including a pair of ball-carriers who did entire flips in the air before crashing to the turf.

Purdue gashed the WMU defense for 309 yards rushing, while the Broncos poured it on through the air to the tune of 439 yards passing. In the end, the Boilermakers held on for a 37-32 victory, a thrilling win in front of a passionate crowd that seemed split down the middle in its support for the two teams.

Alex Carder completed 31-of-58 attempts for 439 yards, but he was picked off four times. The Broncos also lost three fumbles and were atrocious in short-yardage situations. They were 5-of-12 on third down and 1-of-4 on fourth-down tries, but several of those plays needed to gain just one yard, and on too many occasions, the Broncos, without a reliable running game, couldn’t convert.

Despite all the mistakes and other shortcomings, the Broncos had a chance to win the game thanks to Carder and his favorite target, Jordan White. White, an All-American receiver, hauled in 13 catches for 265 yards. His twisting one-handed grab near the goal line in the third quarter was without a doubt the best catch I’ve ever seen in person, and willingness to go across the middle and catch the ball in traffic while running at full speed was impressive.

Western trailed 34-18 late in the third quarter, but kept the game interesting by driving down the field for a pair of late touchdowns. A defensive stop gave WMU the ball back with 3 minutes remaining and a chance to drive down the field to win the game, but another turnover — this time a fumble by Carder — ended the Broncos’ hopes for their first-ever bowl victory.

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