Sunday, December 4, 2011
Little Caesars Bowl
By By Andrea Adelson and Brian Bennett
Western Michigan Broncos (7-5) vs. Purdue Boilermakers (6-6)
Dec. 27, 4:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Western Michigan take from Andrea Adelson: Western Michigan is in its third bowl game in the last five seasons under head coach Bill Cubit based largely on the strength of its high-powered offense. Oklahoma State and Houston might get all the headlines, but the Broncos are up there with them when it comes to piling up yards and points.
Alex Carder and Jordan White are among the most prolific quarterback-receiver duos in the nation. White leads the nation in total receiving yards (1,646), receiving yards per game (137.17), total receptions (127) and receptions per game (10.58); he also ranks second in the FBS in receiving touchdowns (16). White holds all but three receiving records at Western Michigan and needs 110 yards to become the MAC career leader in receiving yards.
Carder threw for 3,251 yards, 28 touchdowns and nine interceptions, and ranks seventh in FBS in completions per game (27.18) and leads the MAC with 312.2 passing yards per game. Carder missed the season finale against Akron with a sore shoulder but is expected to start in the bowl game.
The offense ranks in the top 20 in passing (eighth), passing efficiency (14th) and scoring (18th). Meanwhile, MAC Defensive Player of the Year Drew Nowak leads the defense. Nowak ranks fifth in FBS in tackles for loss per game (1.67) and fourth in total TFLs (20.0). He closed out his regular season with 4.5 sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss in the final two games of the season. Western Michigan already has a win this season over a team from an AQ conference, beating Connecticut in September. But the Broncos are 0-4 all-time in bowl games.
Purdue take from Big Ten blogger Brian Bennett: Purdue was the very definition of inconsistent in 2011.
The Boilermakers never once won two games in a row and had only one two-game losing streak. They beat Middle Tennessee State by blocking a last-second field goal and followed that up by losing to Rice when their own game-winning kick was knocked down. They had strong performances against Penn State on the road (in a loss) and against Ohio State at home (in victory), but got blown out by Michigan, Notre Dame and Wisconsin.
But all Purdue cares about now is that it's going bowling for the first time since 2007 and for the first time under head coach Danny Hope, who would have felt some heat under his seat had the team stayed home for the holidays again. The Boilers had to overcome the loss of starting quarterback Rob Henry in fall camp and juggled Caleb TerBush and Robert Marve under center.
As you might expect for an inconsistent 6-6 team, Purdue doesn't stand out in many areas. But lineman Kawann Short emerged as one of the Big Ten's top defensive players, and the offense found success using screens and misdirection, though running back Ralph Bolden is out for the game because of a torn ACL.