The Indiana Hoosiers' 2010 season will be considered a disappointment in the grand scheme of things. The Hoosiers cruised through an easy non-conference slate but began the Big Ten season 0-7. I would rather go 7-1 in the Big Ten and lose to Purdue than go 1-7 and beat Purdue, but that isn't the choice. All things being equal, a win in the Old Oaken Bucket game makes the offseason much easier to take. A win at Ross-Ade makes it all the better. It wasn't all that long ago that the Hoosiers held their own in West Lafayette. From 1988-1996, IU won 4 of 5 at Purdue. Since 1998, however, it had been a house of horrors, with six straight losses and five blowouts. The image that headlines the post below has been a long time coming. The Hoosiers' six game West Lafayette losing streak was tied, with 1964-1974, for IU's longest road losing streak in history of the series.
Finally, this was IU's first win over Purdue in either football or men's basketball since February 19, 2008. That was the longest drought for IU without a victory over Purdue in a major sport since IU went from November 1967 to November 1971 between Bucket wins (Purdue won 7 in a row over IU in basketball from 1968-1972). So, if it seemed like a long time coming, it was.
Early on, this game appeared to be on the usual Ross-Ade blowout track. After the teams traded punts on their first two possessions, Purdue turned a little undreneath pass into a 55 yard touchdown. The Hoosiers answered with a 68 yard touchdown drive of their own, but Purdue immediately answered to pull ahead 14-7. From that point, both defenses held until the middle of the second quarter. At that point, disaster struck, the sort of event from which the Hoosiers rarely recover: Terrance Turner, inexplicably back to return punts instead of Tandon Doss, made a poor decision to eschew the fair catch and fumbled, allowing Purdue to score and increase their lead to 21-7. Instead of rolling over, the Hoosiers answered immediately, with a 77 yard touchdown drive aided by two third down pass interference penalties against Purdue (both were fairly standard calls--on the first one, the Purdue defender had a handful of Damarlo Belcher's jersey, and on the second Joe Holland made no effort to play the ball and made contact before the ball got there).
IU began the second half with an excellent Tandon Doss kickoff return to the IU 46, and the drive culminated with a 6 yard TD pass to Doss to tie the game. IU forced a punt by Purdue and appeared to be driving for the lead when Turner fumbled again after he caught a pass. Unfortunately, Purdue answered immediately with a 52 yard touchdown pass, a one play drive. That's when the game got strange. IU's Terrance Thomas was ejected after a scuffle on third down that kept a Boiler drive alive. Thomas demonstrated really poor judgment. It was fourth down, so IU had much more to lose than Purdue at that point. Still, the replay showed that a Purdue player had grabbed Thomas by the facemask before he threw a slap or punch or whatever it was. The play ultimately had no major impact because of the odd decision by Danny Hope to punt from the IU 33 instead of allowing Purdue's excellent kicker Carson Wiggs to attempt a 50 yard field goal. I suppose it paid off in the long run. The punt pinned IU on the 2, and IU's three-and-out- and poor punt set up a Wiggs field goal on Purdue's next possession, but it still was a strangely conservative decision, I thought. Still, with five minutes left, the Hoosiers found themselves down by three, and they found a way to drive down the field and set up a game-tying field goal by Mitch Ewald.
Overtime began as grimly as the game. Purdue's first play of OT was a 19-yard completion that gave the Boilers first and goal from the six. After that Rob Henry, who played very, disturbingly well against IU, showed his inexperience by throwing an interception to Jeff Thomas, one of IU's few defensive bright spots this season. When IU took possession, Chappell quickly found Ted Bolser over the middle for a 14 yard gain to the 11. After a strange fumble that IU thankfully recovered, IU simply set up for Mitch Ewald, and his 31 yarder won the game.
This game wasn't without its strange calls, poor decisions, and disappointing plays by seniors, but the Hoosiers, who have been so bad in close games, found a way to pull one out, finally. This is the 12th Big Ten game in the Lynch era that has been decided by 8 or fewer points, and is the Hoosiers' third win in such games: the 2007 Purdue game, the 2008 Northwestern game, and yesterday.
- Ben Chappell, Bloomington native and lifelong Hoosier fan, excelled in his final game for IU. He completed 31-50 passes for 330 yards and three TDs and no interceptions.
- Tandon Doss's 2010 didn't match his excellent sophomore season, but he caught 8 balls for 64 yards and 3 TDs against Purdue.
- Zach Davis-Walker was decent in limited action: 6 rushes for 35 yards.
- Terrance Turner, despite the two turnovers, finished his career with 10 catches for 100 yards and caught a 38-yarder that was the key play of IU's drive to tie the game at 28.
- Damarlo Belcher caught 8 passes for 83 yards.
- Ted Bolser caught 4 passes for 54 yards, including the key play of overtime.
- Jeff Thomas was excellent, with 3 tackles for loss and the key interception in overtime.
Unfortunately, the Hoosiers season ends in November. It's not at all clear what will happen with Bill Lynch. I plan to post about that on Monday. Meanwhile, for the rest of the weekend, it's time to savor the Bucket win, only the third in the last 14 years and the first in West Lafayette since 1996.