WEST LAFAYETTE, IN — The Purdue Boilermakers soared to their first win of the season thanks in large part to Elijah Sindelar’s performance, as the fifth-year quarterback accounted for six total touchdowns and threw for 509 yards in a 42-24 victory over the Vanderbilt Commodores in front of 50,506 – the largest home-opening crowd since 2008.
Sindelar found nine different receivers in the winning effort and finished his afternoon 34-for-52 with five touchdown passes, one interception and one rushing score. His favorite target was sophomore wideout and Heisman Trophy candidate Rondale Moore, who led all receivers with 220 yards on 13 catches, both career-highs. Moore completed his effort with 279 all-purpose yards, which were 34 shy of the program’s record that he set last year on August 30 v. Northwestern.
“When we needed to make big plays in the passing game, he got open,” head coach Jeff Brohm said.
On top of his lightning quickness and sharp cuts throughout the contest, Moore demonstrated an elite ability to adjust to the ball mid-flight on a 70-yard pitch and catch.
Rondale Moore is not of this world 😈 @moore_rondale
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) September 7, 2019
Moore deservedly garnered just about all the attention, but David Bell turned some heads as the true-freshman receiver was much more involved in the offense compared to last week. After scoring a touchdown on his lone catch against Nevada, the 6-2, 210-pound Bell snatched four out of the air for 82 yards in the home opener.
Inside the red zone, however, Sindelar was able to hit his tight ends for scores the majority of the time. Fifth-year senior Brycen Hopkins caught a 12 and 20-yard pass for touchdowns, while redshirt freshman Payne Durham found the end zone for the first time in his career.
“They’ve done a great job for us,” Brohm said. “It’s been an emphasis for us to get our tight ends more involved. Our tight ends really stepped up, made tough catches and controlled the middle of the field. It was great to see them play well.”
The run game, by the way, was nowhere to be found. Purdue (1-1) totaled 540 yards in the win, but 509 came from the right wing of Sindelar. Zander Horvath led all Boilermaker rushers with eight attempts for 15 yards, good for 1.9 yards per carry.
“I would rather have some balance and run the football,” Brohm said. “It seemed like the week before, whenever we worked in a run, it was a waste of a series. So, we do need to get better.”
The team’s 31 total rushing yards were the fewest in a victory since October 28, 2000, when they defeated Ohio State with an identical 31.
The efficiency of the offense – especially in the second half – took a lot of pressure off the defense, which looked much improved than the effort from last week. Leading 14-10 at halftime, the Boilermakers outscored Vanderbilt (0-2, 0-1), 21-7 through the subsequent 20:33 of game time.
Sophomore cornerback Dedrick Mackey tallied Purdue’s first takeaway of 2019 with an interception, while fifth-year senior linebacker Ben Holt owned a game-high 11 tackles and finished second on the team in solo tackles behind Mackey.
Anthony Watts, Markus Bailey and Derrick Barnes each registered a sack, to their credit. With the score 28-10 and under a minute remaining in the third quarter, five-star freshman recruit George Karlaftis swatted a 4th-and-1 pass attempt away from Vandy quarterback Riley Neal deep into Purdue territory, which essentially put the game away. Karlaftis finished with four tackles, three of which were solo.
“I thought that was an outstanding win for our football team,” Brohm said. “Our offense made a lot of big plays in the passing game. We battled to the end.”
Vanderbilt managed to climb within 11 twice in the second half, but both times Purdue pulled away. It was all good until about 3:30 left in the fourth quarter.
In an effort to run out the clock up 42-24, Sindelar tucked and ran on a 3rd-and-14 and took a shot to what appeared to be his shoulder. The Boilermakers would not touch the ball again on offense, but Sindelar was removed from the game and took to the medical tent. Brohm did not provide an update on his injury postgame but mentioned redshirt freshman backup Jack Plummer would be ready if necessary.
With his performance, Sindelar became the 18th player in school history with over 3,000 career passing yards. He is the first Purdue quarterback with five or more touchdown passes and 500 yards in a game since Kyle Orton in 2004. He also becomes the first player since Drew Brees in 1998 to throw for 400 yards in consecutive games.
Moore, meanwhile, in 15 career games is ranked 15th in program history for reception touchdowns (14) and is tied for 18th in career receptions (138). His nine 100-yard receiving games are fourth-most in Purdue history.
The week two win came on the “Hammer Down Cancer” game. The program coupled the event by unveiling the new “T-Squared Student Gate” in honor of alumni Tyler Trent, who passed away this year due to a rare bone disease called Osteosarcoma.
September 7, 2019, was Trent’s 21st birthday.
The Boilermakers will prepare for a TCU Horned Frogs program that is enjoying an off week after defeating Arkansas-Pine Bluff 39-7 last week. TCU will invade West Lafayette Saturday, September 14 with kickoff set for 7:30 pm Eastern.