Motor City madness

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 27, 2007

DETROIT — The Motor City Bowl is low in the postseason pecking order.

The Purdue-Central Michigan thriller, however, might be tough to top.

Chris Summers kicked a 40-yard field goal as time expired, lifting the Boilermakers to a 51-48 victory over the Chippewas on Wednesday night.

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The 99 points tied the second-highest total in a bowl game that ended in regulation, trailing only the 2003 Insight Bowl, where California beat Virginia Tech 52-49.

“It reminded me of some of our early games at Purdue and also of the wacky WAC,” Purdue coach Joe Tiller said. “It wasn’t my favorite game, but it was a heck of a game for the spectators.”

Curtis Painter threw for a school-record 546 yards and three touchdowns, helping the Boilermakers build three 21-point leads and set up the winning kick.

“It’s a fun game to play if you’re on this end,” he said.

Painter was 35-of-54 and both of his interceptions went off receiver Dorien Bryant’s hands.

“It’s big for us to get a win here after losing our last three games,” said Painter, whose passing total ranked third in a bowl game. “It feels good to get all of the statistics, but the best statistic is in the win column.”

Purdue receivers Greg Orton, Jake Standeford and Dustin Keller had at least 112 yards receiving apiece.

Central Michigan’s Dan LeFevour threw for 292 yards and four scores and ran for 114 yards and two TDs, feeding off the energy from the crowd of 60,624 that created more noise than most Detroit Lions games in the same venue.

“The atmosphere was amazing,” said LeFevour, who completed 17 of 34 passes and ran 33 times.

“As we started rolling in the second half, the crowd started getting into it more and it just got better and better.”

Early on, Purdue (9-5) didn’t seem inspired perhaps because playing in Detroit isn’t exactly what a Big Ten team has in mind when it dreams of playing in the postseason.

The Mid-American Conference champion Chippewas (8-6) got the Boilermakers’ attention, though, with an interception on the third play of the game and by taking a 3-0 lead.

Purdue then seemed to get fired up and appeared to be rolling toward a rout, leading 27-6 midway through the second quarter, 34-13 at halftime and 41-20 early in the third.

The Chippewas proved they belonged on the same field.

Their comeback started with LeFevour’s scoring pass to Bryan Anderson at 10:19 of the third and the quarterback tied the game with two runs late in the quarter.

Purdue answered with Jaycen Taylor’s TD run midway through the fourth quarter and seemed to seal the win with a sack when Central Michigan had the ball with 2:15 and no timeouts.

But LeFevour wasn’t done.

He escaped a sack on the next play and got out of bounds. Then, he connected three first downs before lobbing a pass to Anderson from 19 yards to make it 48-all with 1:09 left to play.

The sophomore finished the season with 27 passing touchdowns and 19 rushing, falling just short of joining Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow of Florida as the only players to have 20 of each in the same season.

Painter, who broke the Purdue yardage mark shared by Drew Brees and Kyle Orton, was 4-of-5 for 42 yards on the winning drive.

“It was a heck of college football game and it might go down as one of the best bowls,” Central Michigan coach Butch Jones said. “I can’t say enough about our kids. These kids are special.

“Obviously, it didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to, but I think you saw something special out there. They fought to the bitter end.”

Jones, a former West Virginia assistant, is reportedly a candidate for the Mountaineers’ job that opened when Rich Rodriguez left to coach Michigan.

“I’m not going to comment on that,” Jones said.