Dec. 31, 2004
|2004 Vitalis Sun Bowl|
ASU 27, Purdue 23
By Nate Policar
ASU Sports Information
EL PASO, Texas - In the first meeting between the Purdue Boilermakers and the Arizona State Sun Devils, the two teams squared off nestled between the mountains of El Paso in the 2004 Vitalis Sun Bowl on New Year's Eve. In thrilling fashion, the Devils ended 2004 with a bang, striking for the game-winning touchdown in the final minute of play to outlast the Boilermakers, 27-24.
Starting in place of injured All-American quarterback Andrew Walter, sophomore Sam Keller set multiple ASU bowl records in his first ever start for the Sun Devils. Recording a school-record 25 bowl completions and gaining 397 total yards of offense, Keller helped the Sun Devils earn their first bowl victory since 1997, the last time they visited the Sun Bowl.
The Sun Devils (9-3) struck first, as the teams played to a stalemate for most of the first quarter. Capping off a 10-play, 71-yard drive, sophomore Jesse Ainsworth split the uprights from 22 yards to give the Sun Devils a 3-0 lead after one quarter.
Capitalizing on long misses by Ainsworth on his next two attempts, Purdue (7-5) pinned the Sun Devils on their own one-yard line with a 58-yard punt by Dave Brytus. On the next play, freshman tailback Preston Jones was dropped by Purdue's Brandon Villareal in the Sun Devil's end zone to notch a safety.
Pinned again inside their five-yard line by Brytus, the Sun Devils managed to hold off a late charge by the Boilermakers, forcing them to try a 47-yard field goal that sailed wide right as time expired in the half. A defensive battle to say the least, the Sun Devils headed into the lockeroom with a tenuous 3-2 lead.
The Boilermakers wasted no time setting the tone in the second half, as Purdue's first play from scrimmage was an 80-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Kyle Orton to Brian Hare. Following the point after, Purdue led 9-3 just 12 seconds into the second half.
Sophomore quarterback Sam Keller led the Devils onto the field and answered, connecting with junior receiver Moey Mutz on a 25-yard reception to bring the ball into Purdue territory. Finding Derek Hagan down the sideline, Keller connected with the junior receiver for a 27-yard touchdown pass to regain the lead at 10-9.
Trading punts, Purdue took over as the third quarter wound down at the 50-yard line. Alternating on the run and pass, Orton found receiver Taylor Stubblefield on the sideline for a five-yard touchdown to open a six-point advantage in the final frame.
After punting it into the end zone, the Sun Devil defense answered the call as senior tackle Gabe Reninger pried the ball loose from Purdue's Jerod Void and senior Jimmy Verdon regained possession for the Sun Devils on the Purdue 19-yard line. Unable to move the ball any closer, Ainsworth put a 34-yard field goal through to cut the Purdue lead to 16-13 with 10:33 to play.
Forcing a punt by Purdue, the Devils came out on offense and struck quickly as Keller connected with Hagan on a 19-yard pickup to cross midfield. He then found Rudy Burgess on a screen pass that went 41 yards for a touchdown, giving the lead back to the Devils at 20-16.
With under two minutes left to play, Purdue seized an opportunity on special teams as freshman punter Chris McDonald had trouble handling a bad snap, resulting in a blocked punt that was recovered by the Boilermakers on the ASU 36-yard line. Rushing the ball up the middle himself for nine yards, Orton found receiver Charles Davis on the sideline for a six-yard touchdown to give the Boilermakers a 23-20 lead with 1:14 remaining in the game.
Running an efficient two-minute offense, Keller completed his next four passes. After connecting with Mutz for a short gain, he found Terry Richardson on a 32-yard gain to cross midfield. Throwing across the field, Keller connected with Hagan on a 26-yard gain that stopped the clock out of bounds on the Purdue 19-yard line. Going back to the screen pass, Keller connected with Rudy Burgess, who advanced the ball 19 yards into the end zone and gave the Sun Devils a 27-23 advantage with just 43 seconds to play.
Looking for a defensive stop, the Sun Devil secondary held Orton to three-for-nine passing on Purdue's final possession, stopping them at midfield as time expired and securing the Sun Bowl victory.
"I've never been so ready for anything in my entire life," said sophomore quarterback Sam Keller, who took home the game's MVP honors. "I had a ton of confidence coming into the game but I still didn't really know what to expect. But I'm going to share my MVP trophy with Rudy Burgess. I just tossed him the ball and he did the rest."