Indiana's win over Purdue comes with a fitting end to the season
Bowl eligibility isn’t a frequent occurrence in Bloomington. It’s not like Madison, Ann Arbor or Columbus, where postseason bids of some variation are the lowest of expectations.
Indiana has to work for those bowl berths. It has to scratch, claw and fight to catch even a whiff of that sweet bowl smell.
The Hoosiers took on that same mentality again this season. In games they won, in games they lost – and even in games they weren’t given a chance – they stood in the ring, trading punches with opponents each and every week.
So it was only a fitting way for Indiana to end the season. Indiana needed a win to claim bowl eligibility for the second-straight season and keep the Old Oaken Bucket in Bloomington for a fourth year in a row. it’s biggest rival – Purdue – hoping to send the seniors out with some sort of consolation farewell prize after four abysmal years in the Darrell Hazell/Gerad Parker regime.
Just like the previous 11 games this season, the Hoosiers – a three touchdown favorite – had to scratch, fight and claw in this one. The Boilermakers performed as well as they had in any game this year. For most of the second half, Purdue looked like the team playing like its season was on the line, holding a lead for a good chunk of the final 30 minutes.
Like it had five times prior to Saturday’s contest, though, Indiana found a way to win.
Four turnovers, nine penalties and putrid day offensively didn’t matter on Indiana’s final scoring drive. The Hoosiers mustered an 11-play, 61-yard touchdown drive engineered by Zander Diamont and Devine Redding to take a 26-22 lead that put Kevin Wilson just five minutes away from accomplishing a feat that hadn’t been achieved since Bill Mallory in 1990-91.
And on Purdue’s final possession, a drive that featured a spectacular one-handed grab by Bilal Marshall and a big first down catch by DeAngelo Yancey, Tom Allen’s defense never broke. David Blough’s pass was intercepted by Jonathon Crawford and sealed another 6-6 year for Indiana.
It was a fitting way for both seasons to end, really. Blough had more interceptions than any quarterback in the conference (22) and Indiana’s pass defense had evolved from a doormat into a unit that caused problems for stars like J.T. Barrett, Trace McSorley and Tommy Armstrong Jr.
But this game was more important for Indiana, and the ending was more significant. It was the end of a 25-year streak in which the Hoosiers hadn’t reached consecutive bowl games. It was proof that Wilson – who endured his portion of turmoil in his first four seasons – has built a consistent competitor out of a program that was irrelevant for so many years.
This win – even over a lowly Purdue squad – helps the image of Indiana football. It’s a benefit for the program’s recruiting efforts, trying to convince high-level recruits that its more than just a basketball school.
That’s a battle Wilson as scratched, clawed and fought to change, as well.
He’s making some serious headway. Indiana used to be the team that everyone in the B1G could bowl over. Now the Hoosiers have become consistent bowl contenders.
Indiana just needs to find a way to scratch, claw and fight its way to a bowl win.