In most of the first eleven games, IU used one of the nation's best turnover ratios to compete against more talented teams. Yesterday, the tide turned, and IU lost the turnover battle 4-0 and Purdue won pretty comfortably.
IU's offense moved the ball reasonably well: IU ran for 196 yards and averaged 5.4 yards per carry to Purdue's 124/3.8. Ben Chappell
threw for 266 yards and IU averaged 6.8 yards per pass play. Purdue's Joey Elliott
threw for 205 yards and 7.1 yards per attempt. Overall, IU gained 462 yards and averaged 6.2 yards per play and Purdue gained 329 yards and averaged 5.4 yards per offensive play. Of course, net yardage numbers are deceiving in a game like this, where one team is +4 on turnovers and when that team scores a special teams TD, as Purdue did by returning the second half kickoff for a touchdown, it's further exaggerated. Still, IU's per play averages seem to suggest that this would have been a competitive game if IU had been able to hold onto the ball. Certainly, much of the credit should go to the Purdue defense, which sacked Chappell three times, forced a fumble on IU's first possession that led to an easy touchdown, and had him on the run for much of the game. Still, the two interceptions were inexcusably bad throws, and will raise questions about whether Chappell, who looks so good at times and is only a junior, can be a winning quarterback at this level.
Are there any positives to take from this game? Well, I did the math as I stewed in the Stadium when IU was down 28-7 and figured out that at that point, after taking a 24-3 lead in the 2007 Bucket game, IU had been outscored by Purdue 111-20. It's sad that IU's primary rivarly game has reached a point where I fully expected IU to roll over and die and lose by about 40. I don't necessarily want to give credit for what should be a given, but IU did continue to play hard and at least put the game in some doubt in the fourth quarter. Again, that's faint comfort in a rivalry game at home against a not-very-good Purdue team, but it beats 1997, 1998, 2004, 2005, and 2008. Sigh.
- Darius Willis played a solid game, running for 142 yards on 19 carries.
Mitchell Evans caught 10 passes for 112 yards and a TD.
- On defense, Matt Mayberry (2 sacks) and Jammie Kirlew (1 sack) played well in their final game as Hoosiers.
Once the basketball season slows down a bit after today, I will do a bit of a post-mortem on the season. As for the Bucket game, the last five years have been a missed opportunity for IU. In three of the last five games, IU and Purdue have entered the game with identical records, and Purdue won all three games comfortably. I know it's politically correct to long for the days when the Bucket game means something nationally. I say screw that. Other than isolated seasons such as 1967 and 1979, it's been very rare for IU and Purdue to have good teams at the same time. I'm not sure Indiana is populous or has enough football talent for IU and Purdue to be good at the same time. Purdue is IU's adversary on the field and in recruiting, and getting the upper hand requires, at the very least, competing in Bucket games that should be competitive. IU has failed at that in recent years, for the most part, and it has to change.