The same guy who threw a bowl game-saving touchdown on the final drive of last season started the 2018 season opener for the Purdue football team. But he was not the guy who finished the game for the Boilermakers.
Elijah Sindelar threw three first half interceptions, two on head-shaking mental mistakes, Northwestern talled 21 points off of those turnovers, and the Boilermakers couldn't recover as a rare season-opening Big Ten game went to the Wildcats 31-27 Thursday night at Ross-Ade Stadium.
"We just tossed it to the other team too many times," head coach Jeff Brohm said after the game.
Though Sindelar was spelled by 5th-year QB David Blough at the end of the first half and throughout the second half, the Wildcats' defense tightened and made a two touchdown lead at the break hold up.
If the Wildcats had not bottled up freshman wide receiver Rondale Moore in the third and fourth quarters, there's no telling how many yards he'd have racked up.
Even in a losing effort, Moore caught 11 passes for 109 yards, ran for a 76-yard score on an end around and returned kickoffs for 125 yards -- all part of a night in which he broke (by one yard) a 46-year-old team record for most total yards in a game. Moore's 313 yards were better than the previous high of 312 set by Otis Armstrong in 1972, a year before Armstrong began an eight-year, Pro Bowl career with the Denver Broncos.
Brohm chided his defense after the game, saying they showed a lack of effort in the first half. Missed tackles abounded and the defense looked less like the surprisingly good one from a year ago and more like the disastrously bad squads of the Darrell Hazell regime.
Purdue is likely to need every win it can squeeze out this year. In a season with high expectations after a bowl victory in December, the Boilermakers face a much tougher schedule this year than they did in 2017. Finding six wins (and the bowl eligibility they convey) was already going to be tough. The Wildcats, on paper, are one of the weaker Big Ten teams the Boilers will face this year, so losing this game hurts.
The out-of-conference schedule before the rest of the team's conference games doesn't offer many respites, either. Instead of the traditional games against non-power conference teams or Div. II-A squads, Purdue matches up against the likes of Boston College and Missouri.
They'll get a chance to play middling MAC team Eastern Michigan next week, but even the Eagles are a team on the rise. With three preseason Top-25 teams lurking later on the schedule, Brohm's team may find out quickly what its ceiling is.