WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) — Austin Burton threw two touchdown passes in the first half and finished with three while leading Purdue to a badly-needed 28-26 victory over Florida Atlantic on Saturday.
Burton made his first career start with the Boilermakers (2-2, 0-1 Big Ten) after the Big Ten’s leading passer, Aidan O’Connell, was ruled out with an undisclosed injury.
Florida Atlantic (2-3, 1-0 Conference USA) has lost 27 straight to Power Five teams since beating Minnesota in September 2007, largely because of Burton and Purdue receiver Charlie Jones.
The two hooked up for touchdowns on their first and final possessions of the first half, the second a 12-yarder to give Purdue a 14-13 lead with 18 seconds left. Purdue never trailed again.
But the Owls sure didn’t make it easy. After Dylan Downing scored on a 2-yard run to extend the Boilermakers lead to 21-13, Florida Atlantic turned Burton’s only interception into a 16-yard TD pass from N’Kosi Perry to Lajohntay Wester to make it 21-20.
Burton answered with his third scoring pass, a 4-yarder to TJ Sheffield and Perry made it 28-26 with a 5-yard TD pass to Wester. But a trick play on the 2-point conversion — a pass from Perry to Wester to the end zone was picked off by Cam Allen to preserve the lead.
Purdue closed out the victory by recovering a fumble on fourth-and-1 in the final minute.
Burton was 21 of 29 with 166 yards. Jones caught nine passes for 59 yards.
Perry went 18 of 30 with 230 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. He also had 13 carries for 93 yards. Wester finished with nine receptions, 90 yards and three TDs.
Florida Atlantic: The Owls played well Saturday, going toe to toe for four quarters against a bigger, faster, stronger opponent. Coach Willie Taggart and his squad will now focus on the Conference USA title chase and they could be a legitimate contender if they keep playing this way.
Purdue: After giving away two of their first three games in the final minute, the Boilermakers desperately needed a win. They got what they needed — though it was ugly at times. They ran the ball when they had to and pulled it out to give them some momentum heading into Big Ten play.
O’Connell was just one of Purdue’s missing starters. Injuries also forced running back King Doerue and receiver Broc Thompson to miss their second straight games. Linebacker-safety Jalen Graham hasn’t played since the opener and offensive lineman Cam Craig also sat out Saturday.
Florida Atlantic: Takes next week off before visiting North Texas on Oct. 1.
Purdue: Heads to Minnesota next Saturday in a potentially key West Division contest.