To The Winner Go The Spoils: Purdue Gets Old Oaken Bucket, Bowl Eligibility

Nov 25, 2017

For the first time in five years, the Boilermakers are bowl eligible after getting their sixth win of the season over Indiana.
Credit Stan Jastrzebski / WBAA News

The law of averages says anything will happen that can. So, even though it took 93 tries, it was perhaps inevitable that Purdue and Indiana would, at some point, meet with both the Old Oaken Bucket and a possible bowl berth for only the game's winner on the line.

Purdue was the one to earn its bowl-qualifying sixth win of the season Saturday at Ross-Ade Stadium by virtue of a 31-24 score. It's the first time the team has been bowl eligible since 2012, the final year of Danny Hope's tenure as coach.

Both teams came into the game 5-6. Both held the ball for about 30 minutes Saturday. Both averaged 11 yards per pass completion. Both turned the ball over just once, and in both cases the other side turned the lost ball into a touchdown.

In a word, the game was even.

"I don't know if I've ever been prouder of anything that's happened," first-year Head Coach Jeff Brohm said after the game.

Brohm's team was buoyed by a career game from running back Markell Jones, who tallied 217 yards on 31 carries -- several of which resulted in clock-draining first downs.

And even though the 50-yard line looked like Purdue's kryptonite for the first quarter-and-a-half, with several drives stalling around midfield, the Boilermakers racked up enough big plays to keep ahead of their in-state rivals.

In the second quarter, with the game tied at 7, it looked as if the home team would again find itself allergic to IU territory. But a fake punt and subsequent 22-yard completion from punter Joe Schopper to cornerback Mike Little reinvigorated the drive and led to wide receiver Jackson Anthrop's second rushing score of the game two plays later. It was a lead Purdue would never relinquish.

On the Boilers' next drive, they'd stepped one yard into Hoosier territory when wide receiver Anthony Mahoungou -- the reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week -- hauled in a jump ball and scampered to the end zone for a 49-yard score, making it 21-7 Purdue at the half.

If the first half was dominated by passing, Jones carried the weight (and the ball) in the second. 159 of Jones' 217 rushing yards came in the second half, leading to a seven yard-per-carry average on the day.

Though Purdue led 31-10 with less than six minutes remaining on the clock, the Hoosiers made a game of it, scoring two TDs in five minutes to pull within seven points. But senior Danny Ezechukwu, a 5th year senior playing his final home game, recovered IU's second onside kick (after the Hoosiers had captured the first just minutes earlier) with 1:01 remaining to seal the win.

As of Purdue's victory late Saturday afternoon, more than 75 teams were already eligible for bowl games. Among the 40 bowl games, as many as eight Big Ten teams could be awarded a berth -- the same number that are eligible, pending Minnesota trying to upset undefeated Wisconsin to gain its sixth victory of the year.