Before the season started, our writers all envisioned the Hoosiers finishing above .500 and making a bowl game. With a mostly favorable nonconference schedule, two unknowns in Rutgers and Maryland, and Michigan and Penn State bound to have down seasons, we hoped that our offense would continue to overpower our opponents and our defense would improve just enough not to take us out of games. After defeating a ranked Missouri team on the road, our optimism for this team was through the roof, and I not-so-secretly wondered if this would be our watershed season, much like Northwestern had in 1995.
As we all know, this didn't happen.
Other than the strong running game of Tevin Coleman, the offense stalled against tough Big Ten defenses. Starting QB Nate Sudfeld and backup QB Chris Covington were lost for the season during the same game. Our wide receivers struggled to replace Cody Latimer, Ted Bolser, and Kofi Hughes, and often missed wide-open catches. The offensive line's play vacillated between good and bad much too often. And despite some standout individual performances on defense and improved tackling and turnovers, the unit on a whole could rarely seem to put a full game together. Even heralded recruits began to defect after a while.
Throughout it all though, the Hoosiers kept fighting.
Yesterday was the last game of Indiana's season, and it would not have been hard to blame the team if they had wanted to pack it up and get this game - and they year - over with. However, the Hoosiers of course end each season against Purdue, for the Old Oaken Bucket. Last year, Indiana let off a ton of steam and boat raced an overwhelmed 1-11 Purdue team.
This year wouldn't be as easy.
The Hoosiers and Boilers traded missed field goals to start the game. After this, the Hoosiers had trouble getting anything going on offense. Meanwhile, the Boilers scored two field goals in the second quarter to take a 6-0 halftime lead. Indiana struck first in the third quarter with a Griffin Oakes field goal, but right as the momentum seemed to be shifting, Akeem Hunt ripped off an 82-yard touchdown run to give Purdue a 13-3 lead.
Yet despite the score deficit, the Hoosiers still did not give up.
Suddenly, the offense began to click, as the Hoosiers scored a field goal, then got a touchdown on their next possession thanks to a touchdown run by Shane Wynn, who was playing his final game as a Hoosier. (Side note: I swear the Hoosiers have used the reverse-to-Wynn trick play at least once in every game since Diamont took over at QB, yet teams have fallen for it almost every time.) As the fourth quarter started, the game was tied at 13 and Indiana had the Ball. Suddenly, Tevin Coleman, who surpassed 2,000 yards on the season during this game, coughed the ball up deep in Purdue territory. Despite the great field position though, the Boilers again only settled for a field goal. Then, the Indiana offense got back to work, setting Oakes up with a 34-yard field goal after a 14-play, 61-yard drive. The defense held strong on the next Boilermaker possession, giving IU just enough time to get down the field for the game-winning touchdown drive, as the Hoosiers won 23-16.
Overall, the Bucket Game victory was a positive sign that this team was willing to improve and stay competitive until the bitter end, even long after all hope for season had been lost. Tevin Coleman ran for 130 yards, while Diamont passed for 119 and ran for another 34. Shane Wynn, in addition to his 41-yard TD run, caught six passes for 47 yards, and senior Nick Stoner had four catches for 40 yards.
Indiana finishes its season 4-8 overall, and 1-7 in the B1G.
The Pivotal Play
With the game tied and less than a minute remaining, Zander Diamont scored a touchdown on a quarterback sneak from a few yards out. This clinched the game for the Hoosiers, and allowed Diamont to pick up his first victory as an Indiana QB. On this last drive it was D'Angelo Roberts, a senior and a Bloomington native, who anchored the offense on the final drive, scampering 15 yards to the Purdue one-yard line to set up Diamont's game-winning touchdown.
The Game Ball Goes To...
Offense: Diamont. Kudos to the true freshman, who was rushed into duty but improved during every game. I doubt that Diamont expected to play at all this season, but yesterday's gutsy, come-from-behind performance proved that he might be a future starter in Bloomington. I still expect Diamont to redshirt next season, as he can hit the weight room and gain experience watching Sudfeld's final year, but I wouldn't be surprised if he's the starter come fall 2016 for this team. And after the game, HE CELEBRATED:
INTERNET'S FAVORITE QUARTERBACK pic.twitter.com/QN5uals3nU— The Crimson Quarry (@crimsonquarry) November 30, 2014
break the Internet pic.twitter.com/t5nfNQJPmh— The Crimson Quarry (@crimsonquarry) November 30, 2014
Defense: Tegray Scales. He came up with a huge interception, had six tackles, and generally has been a force to be reckoned as a defensive end this season. I look forward to seeing him improve in the coming years as a Hoosier - it's long past time that our guys on the defensive side of the ball get some name recognition.
Stat of the Week
Twenty. For the first time in 20 years, since the 1993-94 seasons, the Hoosiers have won the Old Oaken Bucket two years in a row. A quirky Big Ten scheduling scenario meant that we got to host two straight Bucket games, so there was some luck involved in that regard. However, with the bad luck that has plagued IU football this season and throughout the years, it was nice to have something go our way.
Offense: B+. Many other teams have torched the Boilermakers for more points and yards than IU did. And though he went over the 2,000-yard mark, Tevin Coleman didn't break off any long touchdown runs. And despite my misgivings on this subject throughout the season, I was pleased with the playcalls from Kevin Wilson and Kevin Johns yesterday. The offense had a good mix of run and pass plays, and you could tell that the coaches had become more comfortable with allowing Diamont to improvise in the pocket as well. While more conservative coaches would have been content with a field goal on our final drive, I loved that we went for the end zone in that situation, even though it left a little time on the clock.
Defense: A-. Akeem Hunt broke through for a long touchdown run to make the game 13-3 early in the third quarter. Besides this long run, the Hoosier defense bent but didn't break, holding Purdue out of the end zone for the rest of the game. This was especially critical in the first half, when our offense had trouble getting going, and the Boilers only had a six-point lead at halftime instead of what could have been 14.
Special Teams: C+. For an offense that often had trouble getting it into the end zone, the Hoosiers needed a reliable placekicker to get us points on the board. Griffin Oakes became that guy this year, and his three field goals were huge yesterday. Oakes did miss one attempt, however, and kicked the final kickoff out of bounds, giving the Boilers decent field position in the final minute. In addition, a botched IU punt return resulted in a second quarter fumble, leading to a field goal for Purdue.
Overall: A+. Purdue may have also been 3-8 going into this game, but a last-minute victory over the Boilers after six straight losses absolutely warrants an A+. While it wasn't the prettiest game to watch, this year's version of IU-Purdue was an emotional win for the Hoosiers, and will rank up there with our 2007 and 2010 wins for dramatic Bucket victories.
Song That Best Describes This Game
Defeating your bitter rivals is always a great feeling. Time to rock out.
Alas, there is no next week. For the seventh season in a row, the Hoosiers will not be going to a bowl game. But if fans are desperate, they can watch Missouri play Alabama in the SEC title game next Saturday. If the Tigers hold off the Tide, then through the all-powerful transitive property of sports, Indiana can claim an entire SEC conference title. Not bad for a 4-8 season.
- Helmet update: White with a red Block I. These helmets looked great, and while I'm partial to the state flag and the chrome, I wouldn't mind seeing these more often.
- Indiana vs. Florida final win tally: Gators six, Hoosiers four. If you recall earlier this season, the EDSBS guys answered my question on their podcast of whether Indiana or Florida would win more games this season. This being before Sudefld was hurt, all three guys said IU. Alas, all three of them were wrong.
- I wrote back in October that I believed that Kevin Wilson should get at least one more year as IU head coach, and I while I've wavered on this in the past month, I think he should definitely be back after yesterday. The Hoosiers basically had to push the reset button halfway through the season, and after two miserable games, the team played competitively in their last four games and even gave potential College Football Playoff team Ohio State a scare for a while. However, if the team can't win a couple more B1G games next season or trips up against a couple nonconference foes, then Wilson might justifiably be on the hot seat.
- Finally, while I should selfishly hope that Coleman sticks around IU for one more season, I think he deserves to get paid (much like Latimer after last season) and hope that he enters the draft. Only 18 players have ever rushed for 2,000 yards during a college football season, and Coleman did so despite being the primary target for opposing defenses week after week. He has the size and speed to make an impact in the NFL, and more professional representation for IU will only be more advantageous for future recruits.