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Purdue wins Bucket, Hope's future in question

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As the sun began to set on Ross-Ade Stadium, Saturday afternoon, Purdue head coach Danny Hope was perched atop some of his players’ shoulders while the rest of the Boilermakers were hoisting the Old Oaken Bucket for the second straight year.

“It was really a special moment.  I never had that happen before,” said Hope. 

Running back Akeem Shavers added, “It was one of those moments you see in a movie.”

Purdue’s 56-35 win over rival Indiana was a Hollywood ending, but whether or not a sequel is in the works remains a mystery.

“I’ve been on the hot seat for about four years, ever since I got here.” said Hope.  “Do I expect to be the coach next year? I don’t have any idea, but either way, I am going to be ok.”

The Boilers football season was one of ebbs and flows, so it seemed fitting that the final game was much of the same.

Purdue exploded for 42 second half points to defeat IU for the fourth time in five seasons.

“It was very chaotic,” said cornerback Frankie Williams.  “We knew going into the game there was going to be adversity and we would have to overcome it.”

It wasn’t exactly a fight of heavyweights, but Purdue and Indiana exchanged blows early and often. Indiana took a 21-14 lead into halftime, courtesy of Stephen Houston’s three touchdown runs, which is the most by a Hoosier in five years.  Houston ran for 158 yards and caught 12 passes for 95 on the day.

With their season hanging in the balance, the Boilers did some mid-game soul searching.

“Going into halftime, the whole team, we looked at ourselves in the eyes.  We just knew we had to execute more,” said Williams.  “From that point on, we just made the plays that came to us.”

Purdue, which has struggled in the third quarter over the past few seasons, scored 21-points on consecutive possessions fueled by the play of its sixth-year senior quarterback.

Robert Marve, who is playing with a blown ACL, said he “felt (his) best throwing” all year.  The numbers justified those feelings.  He tossed for a career-high 348-yards on 20-of-29 passing with four touchdowns on Senior Day.

“It was right back to the old me again,” he said.  “I keep feeling stronger and stronger every week.”

The first touchdown of third quarter came on a 19-yard pass from Marve to O.J Ross who broke several would-be Hoosier tacklers and fought his way into the end zone.

Then, with Indiana driving, Williams intercepted a Cameron Coffman pass and returned it 33-yards.  On the next play, Crosby Wright took a pass from Marve 58 yards down to the one yard line that Rob Henry would eventually run in for a touchdown.

Henry connected with Gary Bush from 25-yards out the next time Purdue got the ball to put the Boilers ahead 35-21.

Indiana fought back, scoring the next 14 points and with the game tied at 35, it looked like the Hoosiers were going to gain even more momentum when Raheem Mostert fumbled a kickoff that Purdue recovered at its own one yard.

Four plays later, the tie was no more. 

Marve threw a screen pass to Akeem Shavers who ran 73 yards down the left sideline to the end zone, capping it off with an ardent stiff arm that left Indiana safety Mark Murphy flat on his back.

“I was like ‘I can’t let him stop me, I’ve come too far,’” said Shavers, “’so I definitely have to get into the end zone this time.’”

Purdue picked off Coffman twice in the fourth quarter and Shavers scored two more touchdowns in the period, a 26-yard pass from Marve and a one yard run, to put the exclamation point on the win.

Shavers finished the day with 126 yards rushing and 99-yards receiving to go along with his three scores.

“I thought Shavers had a great day and our offensive line played well,” said Hope. 

Coming into the game, there was no shortage of questions for the Boilermakers.  Would they add another ‘P’ to the Old Oaken Bucket trophy and qualify for a bowl and keep their season alive?  Those questions were answered with an emphatic, YES.  But, the one uncertainty and main question that remains is the future of Danny Hope.

Despite a three game winning streak and postseason berth, many Boilers fans are not satisfied.  The year started with high expectations and the belief that a trip to the Big Ten Championship game could be a reality.

Instead, Purdue started 0-5 in conference play and had to beat three of the worst teams in the Big Ten, Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana, to simply match their record from a year ago.

So the question remains, has Coach Hope done enough to return for another year?

“I always do my best, never have any second guessing about my effort and my commitment.  I have committed my life to Purdue football for the last four and a half years,” said Hope.  “Sometimes it wasn’t reciprocated from many others on the outside. I don’t have any second guesses in my mind or in my heart to the commitment that I have made to Purdue football."

“My loyalty will always be to Purdue football.  It’s just that plain and simple.”

For now, Hope and the Boilermakers are enjoying at least one last Saturday, one last win, and one last Hollywood moment together.

“I want to celebrate the win today, take that Oaken Bucket and fill it up with some refreshments and drink the whole bucket myself.”