Keene, a transfer from Central Florida, threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to Erik Brooks with 58 seconds left for the game winner. Keene connected on 31 of 44 passes for 366 yards. Brooks had nine catches for 170 yards.
“He lit us up,” Purdue first-year coach Ryan Walters said of Keene.
Fresno State had a 13-minute edge in time of possession. While the Bulldogs converted 11 of 17 third downs, Purdue was 3 of 12 on third down and 2 of 4 on fourth-down conversions.
“We have to do a better job on third downs on both sides of the ball,” Walters said.
Purdue, which led 28-17 early in the third quarter, managed to regain the lead at 35-32 on Devin Mockabee’s 11-yard TD run with 4:36 to go.
Malik Sherrod went wide from 1-yard out early in the fourth quarter to give the Bulldogs a 32-28 lead. Mockobee was stopped on fourth-and-goal at the Fresno State 1 with 8:13 left.
Fresno State’s Dylan Lynch missed a 20-yard field goal but redeemed himself by hitting a 52-yarder as time expired in the first half to narrow the Bulldogs’ halftime deficit to 21-17.
The Bulldogs trimmed the deficit to 28-25 with 6:44 remaining in the third quarter when Keene connected with Jaelen Gill for an 18-yard TD pass and the conversion pass to Jalen Moss.
“We had very few penalties,” Fresno State coach Jeff Tedford said. “I thought we played a clean game. The offensive line did a good job. That’s a tough, physical team we played.”
The Bulldogs were penalized four times for 35 yards.
In his Purdue debut, Hudson Card, a Texas transfer, completed 17 of 30 passes for 254 yards and two touchdowns, including an 84-yard TD pass to Deion Burks.
“There are some plays I wish I had back along with some decision-making,” Card said. “We'll have to look at film and learn from it. Give credit to Fresno State, they came ready to play. Everything we want to accomplish is still in front of us."
Walters echoed that opinion.
“It’s game one with new staff and a new scheme. We’ll evaluate everything. I'm confident we'll get better in game 2," said Walters, who replaced Jeff Brohm after he left to take the job at Louisville, his alma mater.
Purdue's one bright spot defensively was an interception by freshman defensive back Dillon Thieneman in the fourth quarter.
Fresno State: The Bulldogs limited Purdue’s possessions with some long drives, dominating time of possession. Fresno State converted on 11 of 17 third downs. The Bulldogs outgained Purdue 487 to 363 yards.
Purdue: The Boilermakers continued to have trouble running the ball until the fourth quarter. The Boilermakers finished with 109 rushing yards after averaging just 113.2 yards to rank 105th out of 131 FBS teams last year. This was not the defensive start that Walters, Illinois former defensive coordinator, was looking for in his first game either.
HAPPY EARLY RETURNS
Purdue running back Tyrone Tracy Jr. returned the second half kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown. The last time Purdue had a kickoff return for a touchdown was Raheem Mostert for 100 yards at Penn State in 2013. Tracy said he had a big hole and the blockers did the rest.
Late in the first quarter, TJ Sheffield’s 29-yard punt return gave the Boilermakers the ball on the Fresno State 17. Tracy capped an eight-play drive with a 1-yard TD run on the first play of the second quarter.
Fresno State: Plays host to Eastern Washington on Saturday.
Purdue: Visits Virginia Tech on Saturday.