With 1:44 left in the Foster Farms Bowl game, Purdue University sophomore quarterback Elijah Sindelar threw a 38-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Anthony Mahoungou.
That gave the Boilermakers a 38-35 lead, and an interception of an Arizona pass at the 36-yard line on the ensuing possession with 23 seconds remaining allowed them to hold on for the win.
The Purdue fans who made the trip to Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, celebrated the school’s 10th bowl game win in 18 appearances since the first one in 1967. It was the Boilermakers’ first bowl game appearance since 2013 and first title since 2011.
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Among the Purdue faithful in the stands was the more than 380 members of the Purdue All-American Marching Band.
Since 1886, the band has been an icon of the West Lafayette university, performing at each home football game and traveling to concerts, festivals and other events around the world.
Seymour High School graduates Ethan Ashley and Carson Regruth are a part of the band. They experienced the excitement of the bowl game Dec. 27.
“I thought it was all over after the third quarter, but they pulled through with the pass at the end. Many of the games have been close this year, so the last game didn’t seem too different,” said Ashley, a 2015 Seymour graduate and Purdue junior.
“We were all so excited to be there. The band always has such great energy,” said Regruth, a 2016 Seymour graduate and Purdue sophomore. “A lot of us were nervous during the second half, but there had been a few close calls earlier in the season, so we were well-prepared for that situation.”
Both said it was great opportunity to play somewhere else besides Purdue’s home field, Ross-Ade Stadium.
“It was definitely a Purdue crowd,” Ashley said. “I assumed there wouldn’t be very many people there because of how far away it was, but when I turned around on the field after the run of the pregame performance, the crowd was a sea of gold and black.”
Regruth said the atmosphere of the bowl game was similar to a home game.
“No matter where we are, the band’s job is to support the football team and entertain the crowd,” she said.
Ashley said the band played at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis during the football season and other universities in previous years, so playing on a new field wasn’t an issue.
“We are motivated to put in the effort to perform at a high standard and confident in our ability through the intense preparation of rehearsal that the change in venue isn’t significant,” he said. “Since the crowd consisted of an overwhelming number of Purdue fans, it didn’t seem too different in that regard, either.”
The band found out about its opportunity to play at the bowl game the same day the football team did. Levi’s Stadium is the home of the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers.
“I was excited. I had never been to California, and the weather was much nicer there than the other bowls. It was my first bowl game,” Ashley said.
“I was thrilled to find out we would be going to such a cool city and somewhere warmer than Purdue,” Regruth said.
At the beginning of the season, Ashley said the band members were told each athletics performance is mandatory and to not make any significant plans for Christmas break in case they had to go to travel to a bowl game.
“The athletic and band departments paid for everything, including the flights, lodging and an allotment for food,” Ashley said. “We’re very grateful for Purdue’s generous support of the band.”
To prepare for the trip, the band had daily two-hour rehearsals.
“We usually have a different show for each performance, but the directors didn’t want to put too much on our plate between studying for finals, so we played our John Williams show again,” Ashley said.
The band flew out at 9 p.m. Christmas Day and arrived in Oakland, California around 1 a.m.
After a pep rally in San Francisco the morning of Dec. 26, band members had the rest of the day to do whatever they wanted.
“I spent the day with a group of trumpet players, and we walked to famous San Francisco landmarks and ate local food. My favorite part of the trip was exploring Chinatown,” Ashley said.
“I had been to California before this trip, but I loved going back and getting to see it with some of my best friends,” said Regruth, whose parents accompanied her on the trip.
The morning of the game, the band had a final two-hour rehearsal at a high school outside Santa Clara.
The band played on the field for pregame and halftime and in the stands during the game.
Halftime consisted of marching band arrangements of Williams’ famous songs, including the themes from “Star Wars,” “Indiana Jones,” “E.T.” and “Superman.”
“It was a great show to take to the bowl because all of the music is so recognizable, and the new ‘Star Wars’ movie had just come out shortly before the game,” Regruth said.
The band left California the morning of Dec. 28.
This is Ashley’s third year in the All-American Marching Band and Regruth’s first.
Ashley said he played the trumpet for seven years at Seymour middle and high schools, participating in concert, jazz and marching bands.
Regruth played the flute in third grade at St. Ambrose Catholic School and played the flute and piccolo in high school.
At Purdue, Ashley has played the trumpet all three years, while Regruth has played the piccolo.
“Band was one of my favorite experiences in high school, and after watching the Marching Hundred at IU Band Day, I decided I wanted to continue to do band in college,” Ashley said. “I knew joining band would make campus feel smaller and would make it easier to adjust to living away from home.”
Regruth waited until her second year at Purdue to join the band.
“I wanted to be in band at Purdue because I am a huge nerd,” she said. “I loved band in high school, and I am very happy to be able to continue that experience.”
The band played at all of the home football games in the fall and also went to Lucas Oil Stadium for a game and performed at Purdue’s Elliott Hall of Music for a children’s concert.
During spring break March 11 through 18, most of the band will travel to Dublin, Ireland, to perform two concerts and also march in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. The band department isn’t paying for all of that trip, so not all members chose to go.
“The Purdue band has a history of traveling internationally,” Ashley said. “They try to do so every four years. I’m not sure why Ireland was chosen, but I’m excited to go. I’ve never been to Europe.”
Regruth’s parents also will be going on that trip.
“My parents come to everything, even when it’s inconvenient for them,” she said. “I appreciate everything they do for me so much, and it’s great to have them there.”
This semester, Ashley said he is playing in the Purdue concert band, and he also is in the Purdue Gold and Black Sound, the pep band for the women’s basketball team.
“I’ve had the opportunity to travel to the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments with them, which were both really fun experiences,” he said.
Regruth said she will spend the semester playing the flute in Purdue’s symphony orchestra.
Ashley and Regruth plan to continue with band during their time at Purdue, which requires trying out each year.
“The audition is a two-part process of a music test at the end of the spring semester and a marching review during band camp in the fall,” Ashley said. “It’s very competitive. I play in spring ensembles so I don’t lose my proficiency.”
Both said being a part of the band has made their college experience better.
“I enjoy the camaraderie of the AAMB,” Ashley said. “I’ve made so many friends and had so many opportunities I wouldn’t have had otherwise. Band events have been many of the highlights of my time at Purdue. It’s a productive break from the rigors of academic classes and builds lasting friendships and memorable experiences.”
Regruth said band members spend a lot of time together rehearsing, so they become close.
“The people you spend that time with make a huge difference in how your experience goes,” she said. “Some of my closest friends and roommates are people that I have met because of band.”
Ashley is majoring in history and minoring in military science and political science and hopes to become a history professor, while Regruth is studying biology and wants to work in genetics and medicine.
For information about the Purdue All-American Marching Band, visit purdue.edu/bands/ensembles/aamb.