Wet And Wild: Purdue Comes Back, But IU Wins Bucket Game In Two Overtimes
Examining the history of Old Oaken Bucket game outcomes can provide some context to the ebb and flow of the football histories of Purdue and Indiana Universities.
Gone are the days of Purdue posting a 14-game unbeaten streak from the late 1940s to the early 1960s.
Here is a seven-year stretch where IU has won five of seven games, broken only by two one-touchdown squeakers going Purdue's way in Jeff Brohm's first two years as coach.
Those first two years were rewarded with contract extensions after bowl game appearances, even though the team's cumulative record was just 13-13.
After this year's 44-41, double overtime loss to IU (which appears in an ascendant mode under coach Tom Allen and will be heading to a bowl game), Purdue (which will not make the postseason after a disappointing 4-8 campaign) is now below .500 during Brohm's tenure and must regroup if it hopes to keep pace with its in-state rival.
A COMEBACK FALLS SHORT (DUE TO LACK OF EFFORT?)
The Boilers never led Saturday, but still found ways to earn themselves chances to win. Down 28-10 with only 18:30 left in regulation, the team sped up its offensive tempo and began to catch IU off-guard more often. Perhaps just as importantly, the defense stiffened after allowing IU to run seemingly at will in the first half.
The home team thus energized a rain-soaked crowd at Ross-Ade Stadium, scored touchdowns on four of five drives from that point in the third quarter through the first possession of overtime, including a tying touchdown and two-point conversion with 2:48 to go in the fourth quarter.
But when Purdue could only manage a field goal on its second possession of overtime and IU quarterback Peyton Ramsey dove in for a touchdown, the Hoosiers had secured a trip back to Bloomington for the Bucket.
After the game, Brohm made repeated mention of the fact he feels his team hasn't put in enough effort to be a top-tier Big Ten football team.
"We've got a ways to go. We've just got to get more guys who want to buy in and do things right," Brohm says.
Also Brohm: "We've got to find more guys that will put in all the effort that's needed to play at a high level."
"We have a handful of guys who are really ready to win."
"We need more guys that want to work like (running back) Zander Horvath."
By game's end, IU had outgained Purdue on the ground by just four yards, 185-181. At least a few of those yards are attributable (if not in the official scorebook) to the Hoosier offensive live, which repeatedly helped push freshman running back Sampson James and Ramsey forward for extra yards, often on plays it seemed the Boilermaker defense had walled off.
When Purdue's run defense adapted in the second half, it fell to Ramsey to be quietly efficient in the pass game, where he threw three touchdowns and didn't turn the ball over -- all while gaining 337 yards through the air.
Purdue's Aiden O'Connell did throw an INT, but also had three TDs of his own while collecting 408 passing yards.
But the story for the Boilermaker offense was the emergence of running back Zander Horvath, who became the only Boilermaker to gain 100 rushing yards in a game this season -- an exemplar of the team's season-long struggles rushing the ball (third-fewest yards gained on the ground among FBS teams).
Horvath averaged more than seven yards per carry against the Hoosiers, racking up 164 yards and two touchdowns.
On Senior Day, the team said goodbye to 15 seniors, including a few key contributors.
Tight end Brycen Hopkins (who'll represent Purdue in the upcoming Senior Bowl, and has a chance of being an NFL draft pick) had a memorable final day as a Boilermaker, catching eight passes for 142 yards and two touchdowns (as well as the game-tying two-point conversion in the fourth quarter).
Quarterback Elijah Sindelar was also honored, though in street clothes -- emblematic of a college career cut far short (even with extra years of eligibility) by injuries.
The same was true of linebacker Markus Bailey, who was expected to anchor the defense this year, but only played a couple games before suffering a season-ending injury.
QUESTIONS TO ANSWER
Spring practice (and the 2020 season) will begin with a few questions -- some wrought by unexpected performances (and playing time) this season.
Is O'Connell the team's starting quarterback when next season begins?
Has Horvath turned himself into the team's starting running back?
Will there be many carries on the ground next year when wide receivers David Bell and (2018 All-American) Rondale Moore are both healthy (Moore missed most of the season with an injury)?
What's the ceiling for defensive lineman George Karlaftis, who registered his seventh sack of the year against Indiana -- the most by a Boiler since current Carolina Panther Kawann Short's seven in 2012?
And, perhap the most important one, from Brohm: who'll step up and give the necessary effort to take the team from the perennial .500 squad it's been in his tenure to more of a contender in the Big Ten?
The 2020 season opens in Lincoln, Nebraska with a conference game against the Cornhuskers on September 5.