RENO, Nev. – Five turnovers proved too much for Purdue to overcome in its season opener.
Nevada freshman kicker Brandon Talton drilled a 56-yard field goal as time expired to give the Wolf Pack a 34-31 win over the Boilermakers.
Purdue was in control for much of the first three quarters, leading 10-0 after the first quarter and 24-7 at halftime. The Boilermakers took a 31-14 lead with just more than six minutes remaining in the third quarter on Elijah Sindelar’s49-yard touchdown pass to David Bell, which was the freshman’s first collegiate catch.
But the Wolf Pack scored the game’s final 20 points, including 10 points in the final 52 seconds.
Nevada quarterback Carson Strong found Elijah Cooks for a 20-yard touchdown reception to tie the game at 31 with 52 seconds remaining. Purdue started its next drive at its own 28-yard line with 50 seconds remaining, enough time to try to get into field goal range. But Sindelar was intercepted near midfield with 38 seconds left, which set Nevada up for Talton’s game-winning field goal.
The ending is a rough one considering how well both sides played for Purdue during the first three quarters and a good portion of the fourth quarter.
Sindelar completed 34-of-52 passes for 423 yards and four touchdowns, but did have a pair of second-half interceptions. Rondale Moore picked up where he left off last year with 11 receptions for 124 yards and one touchdown.
Six freshmen saw action, with many making key contributions. Amad Anderson had six catches for 60 yards, while Milton Wright had three catches for 21 yards. George Karlaftis and Jalen Graham both made significant contributions on defense, with Karlaftis recording his first sack and Graham finishing with four tackles.
Purdue opened the game by going 70 yards in 12 plays, capped by Sindelar’s 2-yard touchdown pass to tight end Brycen Hopkins.
All three of the Boilermakers’ touchdown drives in the first half went at least 75 yards, but the most impressive one was the final one to end the half. Nevada pinned Purdue at its own 1-yard line twice in the first half on pooch punts that got a good roll.
On the second such punt, Purdue went 99 yards in 10 plays, taking a 24-7 lead with just more than two minutes remaining in the half. Anderson had receptions on the first two plays of the drive, giving Purdue some breathing room by getting out to the 16-yard line.
Zander Horvath rushed for 11 yards on a 4th-and-1 play from midfield. That set up Sindelar’s 39-yard touchdown reception to Moore, who outran the defense to get open down the middle of the field.
Prior to that touchdown, Moore proved to be a good decoy to get other teammates open. Purdue went ahead 17-7 on Jackson Anthrop’s 38-yard touchdown reception from Sindelar. On the play, Sindelar faked a throw in the flat to Moore, which drew two defenders towards him and left Anthrop wide open down the sideline.
Purdue gained 519 yards and only committed five penalties for 55 yards, but those five turnovers were too much to overcome.
The Boilermakers fumbled away two punts – one that hit Horvath’s helmet on the fly. Nevada turned that miscue into a touchdown, but Purdue answered with another long touchdown drive, but one that took just two plays.
Sindelar found Hopkins for a 26-yard gain before connecting with Bell for the 49-yard touchdown.
Moore fumbled the next punt, attempting to scoop the ball as it rolled on the ground. But after that turnover, Nevada went backwards three yards on its drive before settling for a field goal.
Horvath had a nice debut with 66 yards on 19 carries, adding three receptions for 21 yards.
Purdue hosts Vanderbilt in its home opener Sept. 7.