BLOOMINGTON – After kneeling to drain the final seconds off Purdues 38-21 victory over Indiana, senior quarterback Joey Elliott tucked the game ball under his arm.
He thought about giving it to coach Danny Hope for his first Old Oaken Bucket victory.
Upon further reflection, Elliott figured the ball would be better-served elsewhere: In his parents home in Evansville. So he flipped it to his dad in the stands before heading into the locker room to snap pictures with teammates and the Bucket.
It was a big win for us. Ill be able to go back to Evansville and live comfortably during the break, said Elliott, who threw for 205 yards and four touchdowns in his first starting role against the Hoosiers. I wont have anybody giving me a hassle – because I always get Christmas cards, birthday cards saying, Go Hoosiers.
Without the Bucket in tow, Hope said the bus trip home to West Lafayette wouldnt have been the same, especially considering Purdue had won 10 of the last 12 Bucket games.
It was more of the same Saturday at Memorial Stadium with the Boilermakers (5-7, 4-4 Big Ten) reaching at least 30 points for the ninth time during that 13-year stretch. The Hoosiers havent scored more than 27 points in that span.
We had to come out here with the Bucket back on the bus with us, Hope said. If we pulled out of here without a win, the season would have not have been the same. We leave out of here holding our heads high, knowing we took some big steps as a football team and a football program.
It was even more rewarding for Hope because Purdue finished the season doing what he had been pleading for: limiting turnovers on offense and forcing them on defense.
For only the second time this season, the Boilermakers didnt have a turnover. They also forced four.
Jaycen Taylor ran for a season-best 110 yards on 20 carries and caught seven passes for 59 yards and a score for Purdue.
But Purdue wasnt the only team reversing trends.
Instead of jumping to an early lead and then collapsing, Indiana fell behind quickly because of its miscues – including a blocked field goal – and then frantically rallied.
The Hoosiers got within 31-21 with 8:04 left in the game. But after a stop on defense, Ben Chappells screen pass was intercepted by defensive tackle Kawaan Short. By the time Indiana got the ball back, there was less than 4 minutes remaining.
In the first half, Chappell had an interception and lost a fumble, and Purdues David Pender blocked a field goal. The Boilermakers converted all of those mistakes into touchdowns and a 21-7 halftime lead.
It was a tough football game from our standpoint, Indiana coach Bill Lynch said. Throughout the season, I think these guys really battled and kept fighting and I think they did the same thing (Saturday). What was uncharacteristic is what I think was the difference in the game – turnovers and the kicking game. Where we have been really good in the turnover margin, plus eight or nine coming into it, we were minus four.
When you make those kinds of mistakes, those are on us. It was one of those games.