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For The Third Straight Year, IU Takes The Bucket As Purdue's Season Kicks It

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Stan Jastrzebski
/
WBAA News

The game mattered a lot more to IU, which needed one more victory to become bowl eligible, than to Purdue -- and it showed.

The Hoosiers chewed up 659 yards of total offense -- the second time this season the team has allowed a record-setting number of yards (after giving up 595 versus Illinois) -- and the visitors controlled the momentum time and again as the Boilers tried to rally in the second half, with quarterback Nate Sudfeld and backup running back Devine Redding finding answer after answer in a 54-36 IU victory.

But after the game, head coach Darrell Hazell had few answers for why his team has fallen on such hard times and why, on a Senior Day that saw the final Purdue performances of players such as Danny Anthrop and Frankie Williams, the program looked so broken.

"I'm concerned about fixing everything," Hazell said. But when pressed on what aspects of the program need the most attention or when he'd evaluate which of his assistant coaches stay or go, Hazell declined to answer.

Purdue's Class of 2015 graduates with just 12 wins in the last four years. That's the fewest since the class of 1996, which had 13 wins, but not the least in recent memory.  1993's squad (which had to face six ranked teams in that year's 1-10 season) had 11 wins over its four years.

Coincidentally, 1993 was the third year under head coach Jim Colletto, who lasted six in West Lafayette. Likewise, Hazell has now completed three years on his six-year deal and has already been publicly granted a fourth year by Athletics Director Morgan Burke.

Saturday's game was a microcosm of a mistake-filled season for the Boilers. Mental mistakes, missed tackles and a defense that was inconsistent at best plagued the team both against Indiana and for the season writ large.

Though the gametime temperature was cold -- a 31-degree wind chill at kickoff -- the Boilers seemed hot under the collar, committing four personal foul penalties on the day.

They also allowed a Hoosier team playing without leading rusher Jordan Howard to look like a juggernaut on the ground, thanks mostly to the efforts of backup Devine Redding, who racked up 144 of the team's 309 yards on the ground.

IU QB Nate Sudfeld was equally impressive, throwing for 350 yards and four scores, including a 72-yard bomb to Andre Booker when the Boilers had closed the gap to 44-36 with 11 minutes to go in the fourth quarter.

Sudfeld had also caught the Purdue defense napping on a fourth down during IU's first drive. When it appeared coach Kevin Wilson's team would punt, Sudfeld and company suddenly stayed on the field and a stunned Purdue secondary watched as  IU wideout Ricky Jones was left wide open for a 20-yard gain. That kept the drive alive and led to an IU touchdown that gave the Hoosiers a lead they would never relinquish.

One positive for Purdue all season was the play of freshman running back Markell Jones, who on Saturday set a Purdue freshman record for most rushing yards in a season, with 875. He also scored his 11th TD of the season on a 20-yd rush in the third quarter. For the season, Jones averaged 5.2 yards per carry -- significantly better than D.J. Knox, the man whose starting job he stole midway through the year.

Jones insisted after the game individual numbers didn't matter to him, but here's a number that might -- he's one of more than 90 Boilermakers who could return next season, and he insisted after the Old Oaken Bucket game loss he was optimistic about the program's direction.

The team does have a new practice facility upgrade to look forward to in the next couple years, but unless Hazell and whoever is on his coaching staff going forward can recruit better players (not just train them when they come to campus), Jones' optimism may be chalked up to little more than youthful exuberance trying gamely to cover for another lost season.