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December 23, 2011We begin today with No. 5 on our list, the 2002 Sun bowl between Purdue and Washington:
2002 Sun Bowl: Purdue 34, Washington 24
EL PASO, Texas - Purdue snapped a four-game bowl losing streak and avenged Washington's 34-24 win in the 2001 Rose Bowl with a 34-24 win in the 2002 Sun Bowl.
Coach Joe Tiller's team, following a disastrous first quarter, scored 34 straight points over the game's final three quarters after falling behind 17-0 in the early going.
"It's kind of like what we've been doing all year, in a sense," Tiller said. " I'd have been surprised if we didn't come back and I knew we couldn't keep playing as bad as we did in the first quarter."
It was indeed a nightmare of an opening 15 minutes for the Boilermakers.
First, punter Brent Slaton mishandled the snap from center and was sacked for a 23-yard loss down to the Boilermaker 7. On the next play, UW scored to go ahead 7-0.
Three plays later, quarterback Kyle Orton bobbled first-game center Nick Hardwick's errant shotgun snap. Typical of Purdue's 2002 fortunes, the ball was kicked out of a crowd into the flat, where it rolled right to the streaking Marquis Cooper, who was escorted by other Huskies 31 yards into the end zone. After Purdue went three-and-out on its ensuing possession, John Anderson kicked a 38-yard field goal to cap a drive that was aided by a phantom pass interference call on cornerback Antwaun Rogers, one of two iffy flags thrown on Rogers while defending star receiver Reggie Williams.
It looked like it was going to be a long afternoon for Purdue, especially after a personal foul call on receiver Chris James early in the second quarter denied the Boilermaker first-and-goal at the Husky 1 and forced them to settle for an unsuccessful 32-yard field goal attempt.
But everything changed in the next couple of minutes. With both teams talking trash, pushing, shoving, etc., the flags began flying and Purdue began to take over.
First, a pair of personal foul flags on UW and a 46-yard by Joey Harris helped Purdue get on the board, with Orton hitting John Standeford for a seven-yard TD with 5:09 to play in the half.
Minutes later, Purdue finally got a fortuitous bounce. On second-and-10 from the Husky 14, Orton flipped to running back Brandon Jones, who pushed down to the goal line before fumbling for the first time this season. He dropped the ball into the end zone, where freshman wide receiver Ray Williams immediately dove on it for a touchdown, with just 35 seconds left in the half.
The mood in Purdue's locker room at the half was positive, as it should have been following a second quarter in which the Boilermaker amassed 210 yards of total offense, after finishing the first with minus-8.
"That was a very confident locker room," Tiller said. "They were happy with where they were."
Anthony Chambers set the tone for the second half by returning the opening kickoff out of his own end zone 51 yards. Eight plays later, Lacevic booted a 23-yard field goal and the game was tied.
With Purdue's defense giving little ground, the Boilermakers took the lead with 3:33 left in the third, when Harris flew through a gaping hole untouched into the end zone for a 10-yard score.
Less than two minutes later, linebacker Gilbert Gardner made the defensive play of the game. He came off the corner on a blitz, batted the ball away from QB Cody Pickett, picked it up and ran 19 yards for a touchdown, putting Purdue ahead 31-17 with 2:08 to play.
Lacevic's 29-yard field goal with 5:52 to play rounded out Purdue's scoring and capped a drive that milked 7:54 off the clock.
Pickett hit Patrick Reddick for a 12-yard score with 3:31 left to play to match the score between these two teams in Pasadena two years ago.
Husky kicker clanked a 24-yard field goal off the upright in the game's closing seconds, as the Boilermakers poured onto the Sun Bowl field in celebration.
Orton was named the game's MVP following a 25-of-37, 283-yard, no-interception performance that eliminated any plans the coaching staff had of playing both he and freshman Brandon Kirsch.
Standeford stole the limelight from Reggie Williams by catching 10 balls for 105 yards, while Taylor Stubblefield caught seven for 92 against his homestate school.
Williams, blanketed by Rogers throughout the game, was held to just five catches - three of which came late in the game - for 64 yards. Pickett was 25-of-54 for 272 yards, with one interception, a deflected pass that was picked off by Niko Koutouvides in the second half.
Harris rushed for 93 yards, as the Boilermakers ran for 117 yards on UW's stout run defense.
Purdue outgained Washington 400-316 and dominated time of possession, 34:19-25:41.
The rationale behind the ranking
In a repeat game of the Rose Bowl the year before, the Boilermakers put on one their great- est comebacks in a long time, let alone in a bowl game. Purdue misfired in more ways than one early in the contest, trailing 17-0, but opportu- nistic plays like Gilbert Gardner's third-quarter, 19-yard fumble return for a touchdown led Purdue to an improbable win and to an offsea- son that had expectations sky high.
No. 8: 2007 Motor City Bowl
No. 7: 1978 Peach Bowl
No. 6: 1980 Liberty Bowl
Check back each day as we count down our list to the top bowl game in Boilermaker history in preparation for Purdue's appearance against Western Michigan in Detroit.
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