BLOOMINGTON — Looks as if it's time for another eye-for-an-eye Oaken Bucket adventure. Indiana and Purdue are back at it for football bragging rights, and if the postseason is a next-season goal, blast away the disappointment by knocking somebody into tomorrow.
Purdue did that last year with a 62-10 blowout of IU that has caused some Hoosier players to post that score in their apartments, lockers and any other place motivation is needed.
“Last year put a bad taste in our mouths, not only because we lost, but that we lost that badly,” tailback Bryan Payton said. “To put that bad taste in their mouths would be awesome.”
Awesome opportunity arrives Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
“To win our last Bucket game would be something us seniors could carry with us always,” Payton said. “That's a big deal.”
Both teams are 4-7, but have come at it in different ways. The Boilers have won three of their last five games. The Hoosiers have won one of their last eight.
Purdue has offensive firepower with quarterback Joey Elliott, receiver Keith Smith, tailback Ralph Bolden and kicker Carson Wiggs, plus a veteran offensive line.
Elliott leads the Big Ten in passing (256.5 yards) and total offense (281.0). He's thrown 18 touchdown passes. Smith leads in receiving (86 catches, 1,015 yards, 5 touchdowns). Bolden is third in the Big Ten in rushing (941 yards, nine touchdowns). Wiggs is 13-for-19 in field goals, including a conference-best 59-yarder.
The Boilers also have two of the Big Ten's top defensive players in end Ryan Kerrigan and tackle Mike Neal. Kerrigan leads the conference in sacks (11) and forced fumbles (5). Neal is among the leaders in recovered fumbles (2).
“We have several all-conference players,” Purdue coach Danny Hope said. “Keith's numbers speak for themselves. Just put on the film and figure it out. Ryan's numbers do that same thing. He's one of the premier linemen in the country. Those guys are no-brainers.
“Joey is playing his position as well as anyone in the league. I don't know anyone else who can kick the field goals Carson can. We tried some field goals with him some guys would never dream attempting. Mike Neal is a dominant player. He's one of the best defensive tackles I've ever been around.”
IU quarterback Ben Chappell is second in passing (243.2 yards) and completion percentage (63.0). He's thrown 15 TD passes. He has perhaps the Big Ten's best receiving tandem in Tandon Doss (73 catches, 911 yards, 5 TDs) and Damarlo Belcher (57, 704, 4).
“They do a heck of a job in throwing and catching,” Hope said. “Their quarterback is really on fire. They have some great receivers to throw to.”
You might think this game has huge recruiting ramifications. Not so, the coaches said.
“I don't think it will have any impact because recruiting is so futuristic right now,” Hope said. “Most of the guys who are committed will stay committed.
“What I do know is this is a game we want to win.”
Added IU coach Bill Lynch: “I don't think a recruit and his family … base their decisions on who wins this game. This is a game that is talked about a lot and has been for a long time. It helps the exposure of both programs. I wouldn't think this game should be a determining factor in where a young man should go to school.”