Purdue coach Darrell Hazell knows the Old Oaken Bucket Game is a special occasion for his players, fans and alumni.
Despite how tough this season has been on all of the above, the matchup with Indiana at 3:30 p.m. Saturday provides hope.
It also gives Hazell a motivational tool.
All week long, we’ll have some special activities. It’s going to be an exciting week, he said Tuesday. Our guys are ready to go. They’re fired up, even after a disappointing loss last week. Our seniors are jacked up to play their last game down in Bloomington. I know they’re excited for this game.
There have been plenty of disappointing losses this season for Purdue (1-10, 0-7 Big Ten), but the season ends with a series they’ve owned in recent years. The Hoosiers (4-7, 2-5) sport the No. 17 offense in the country in total yards with 491.8 per game, but the Boilermakers have won four of the last five Bucket Game matchups and lead the series 58-27-3.
Purdue will try to amp itself up and put another one of its links on the Old Oaken Bucket this Saturday, regardless of how lopsided the matchup might seem.
There’s a countdown clock that we’ve installed probably after the second or third week that we got here, in the hallway of the football facility, Hazell said. It’s finally down to those last couple days, last couple hours and minutes. We want our players to understand that this is more than just a game.
The Boilermakers are coming off a four-point loss to Illinois at home. The Hoosiers, meanwhile, suffered a 42-14 setback at No. 4 Ohio State, and a team with 21 seniors will look to beat up on Purdue in its last hurrah.
Hazel said his team has improved quite a bit despite its record, which mirrors that of the Hoosiers in 2011, their first year under coach Kevin Wilson.
The foundation to me is constant growth, from everything you do, your meetings, how you prepare, the players, how they see things, Hazell said.
The words echoed Wilson after his first season ended with an 1-11 record and a similar level of disappointment. In that first year, he’s often said, it’s about weeding out the people who don’t buy in, adjusting players to the coaching style and just trying to figure out what’s going on in your own building.
Despite those struggles, IU was eight points from a Bucket Game upset in 2011. And Wilson knows the Boilermakers could give the Hoosiers a hard time if IU lets Hazell’s squad stick around on Saturday.
I’m impressed with their effort and attitude, Wilson said of Purdue. I expect it to be a dogfight. And I expect we’re going to need to play our best if we’re going to have an opportunity.