Keller made everyone else forget about Kyle Orton's last-minute
heroics with some of his own.
Showing remarkable poise in his first collegiate start, Keller
threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to Rudy Burgess with 44 seconds left
to lead the Sun Devils (No. 24 ESPN/USA Today; No. 21 AP)) to a 27-23 victory over Purdue in the Sun
Bowl on Friday.
"I've never been so ready for anything my entire life," said
Keller, who finished 25-of-45 for 370 yards and three touchdowns.
"I had a ton of confidence coming into the game but I still didn't
really know what to expect."
Neither did Purdue.
Starting for Walter, the untested sophomore completed all four
of his passes on the winning drive for 80 yards in a frantic finish
that stunned the Boilermakers and the Sun Bowl-record crowd of
Burgess caught Keller's final throw on a screen play, slipped
two tackles along the sideline and cut back inside en route to the
end zone to give the 21st-ranked Sun Devils (9-3) the lead after
Purdue had gone ahead 30 seconds before.
The Boilermakers (7-5) had one more chance, but Orton's
desperation heave into the end zone fell incomplete as time
Burgess, who wasn't named a starter until Hakim Hill was kicked
off the team earlier this week for breaking unspecified team rules,
also had a career afternoon -- 189 yards of total offense and two
"I'm going to share my MVP trophy with Rudy," Keller said. "I
just tossed the ball to him and he did the rest."
Darian Hagan added nine receptions for 182 yards and a touchdown
for the Sun Devils, who had lost their three previous bowl games.
The Sun Devils were also missing defensive coordinator Brent
Guy, who resigned three weeks ago to take over as head coach at
Utah State. Arizona State hired Florida assistant Bill Miller as
his replacement the day before the Sun Bowl.
If the smothering performance against Purdue is any indication,
Miller will have plenty to work with. The Sun Devils held the
nation's 12th-ranked offense to 347 yards, the Boilermakers'
third-lowest output of the year.
"Sam played great today," Arizona State coach Dirk Koetter
said, "but the game was won by our defense."
Arizona State's two novice offensive standouts totally outplayed
Purdue's Orton and Taylor Stubblefield, one of the NCAA's most
prolific pass-catch duos. Orton finished 23-of-47 for 281 yards
with three touchdowns and Stubblefield had seven catches for 81
yards in their final college game together.
With the Sun Devils leading 20-16 midway through the fourth,
Orton misfired on three straight passes to go three-and-out, and on
Purdue's next offensive play, Brandon Jones fumbled at the end of a
24-yard catch to seemingly end the Boilermakers' comeback hopes.
Many of Purdue's gold and black-clad fans started filing out of the
But Arizona State gave Purdue another chance when punter Chris
McDonald struggled to field a snap, and safety Bernard Pollard
stormed through to block the punt. The ball rolled out of bounds at
the Sun Devil 36, giving Purdue excellent field position and about
two minutes to work with.
Orton seized upon the unexpected opportunity, completing a
20-yard pass to Stubblefield and then lofting a 6-yard touchdown
throw to 6-foot-6 tight end Charles Davis for a 23-20 lead with
That gave Keller just enough time to work his late-game magic.
"I really felt like our defense had no gas in the tank,"
Purdue coach Joe Tiller said. "I thought it would be difficult and
I thought maybe we'd need a break and maybe they'd turn it over."
No such luck.
The Boilermakers had only 13 yards in the first quarter and
didn't get their initial first down until a 13-yard pass from Orton
to Stubblefield early in the second.
"They had a real advantage of speed against us," Orton said.
"I think they were a much faster defense than we thought going
Purdue's first -- and only -- points of the first half didn't come
until defensive tackle Brandon Villarreal tackled Preston Jones
deep in the end zone for a safety.
But Orton came out firing after halftime.
He threw an 80-yard touchdown pass to Brian Hare on the first
play after the break and connected with Stubblefield on a 5-yard
touchdown throw early in the fourth, giving Purdue a 16-10 lead.
Keller responded with two scoring drives, including a 41-yard
touchdown pass to Burgess midway through the quarter to put Arizona
State up 20-16.
Purdue has lost in five of its past six bowl games, with its
only win coming over Washington in the 2002 Sun Bowl. Orton and the
Boilermakers have played in three of the past four Sun Bowls.