Nov. 26, 2011
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) - Purdue's players hoisted the Old Oaken Bucket in front of their fans, danced around the Bucket in the locker room; they even took turns kissing the prized trophy Saturday.
Now the Boilermakers will just have to wait to find out if reclaiming the Bucket was good enough to propel them into the postseason.
Ralph Bolden ran for one touchdown, Antavian Edison scored twice and Carson Wiggs made four field goals, leading the Boilermakers to a 33-25 victory at archrival Indiana that makes Purdue bowl-eligible for the first time since 2007 and the first time under coach Danny Hope.
"We had some great wins this season, but nothing is quite as sweet as beating Indiana, in Bloomington, to get the Bucket and become bowl eligible," linebacker Joe Holland said, grinning from ear to ear.
Unless, of course, the Boilermakers don't make the postseason.
At 6-6 (4-4 Big Ten), Purdue is the 10th league team to reach the mandatory six wins for postseason play. However, the conference has only eight bowl tie-ins, so there is no guarantee the Boilers will play in December or January.
That prospect didn't dampen the postgame celebration.
When the clock ran out, Purdue's players ran to the opposite side of the field not to shake hands with their bitter rival but to get their fingers on the coveted trophy. The players then walked back toward their own sideline and jogged into the corner of the end zone where they celebrated with fans before taking turns getting pictures with the Bucket in the locker room.
What's next for Purdue? The answer is unclear, but the celebratory mood was in full swing Saturday.
"It was rowdy in the locker room," Wiggs said. "We were talking about the bowl games we could be in."
Still, things could have gone better.
The announced attendance of 42,005 didn't come close to filling Memorial Stadium, and a smaller-than-expected contingent made the 2-hour drive from West Lafayette to Bloomington.
That didn't seem to matter to Paul Viglianti, a representative of the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl in Detroit, a game that has direct affiliation with the Big Ten's bowl agreements.
"You want teams that are bowl hungry and Purdue is excited about being in a bowl again," he said. "It's only a gas tank away to go to a bowl for anybody in the Mid-American Conference or the Big Ten, so the proximity is really important. It's always a better game when there's a Big Ten team because you get more local, regional audiences wanting to purchase tickets."
The other big concern is the status of running back Ralph Bolden, who left in the third quarter with what appeared to be a right knee injury. He ran 14 times for 54 yards including an 8-yard TD run but he did not finish the game. Bolden missed all of last season after tearing the ACL in his right knee and before leaving the field, teammates, including quarterback Robert Marve, came over and wished Bolden well.
Purdue coach Danny Hope had no update on Bolden after the game.
"It's disappointing and we'll wait and see what the diagnosis and the prognosis is, maybe everything's going to be fine," Hope said.
TerBush was 16 of 25 for 192 yards with one TD and no interceptions, and Akeem Hunt ran 10 times for 100 yards after replacing Bolden.
Indiana freshman quarterback Tre Roberson was 17 of 26 for 147 yards with one interception, a call the officials decided to review before later announcing that a dual-possession play was not reviewable. Stephen Houston rushed seven times for 129 yards and one score, and D'Angelo Roberts scored on two of his four carries for the Hoosiers.
Defensively, the Hoosiers were better. For the first time in seven games, the Hoosiers held an opponent to fewer than 40 points, and a scoreless third quarter was their first against any opponent in 29 quarters, dating to Oct. 1.
Regardless, the Hoosiers (1-11, 0-8) completed their first season under coach Kevin Wilson with nine straight losses and closed out the year as the only non-BCS team to go winless against Football Bowl Subdivision foes.
"This is the worst feeling in the world, of course, having a horrible season," receiver Kofi Hughes said. "We thought this would be a positive feeling heading into the offseason, but now we just have to flip that back as motivation."
What started as a wild shootout turned into a defensive struggle in the second half.
Houston opened the scoring with a 52-yard TD run, and Purdue answered with a 14-yard TD pass from TerBush to Edison.
Roberts followed that with a 6-yard TD run up the middle to make it 14-7, and after Raheem Mostert's 81-yard kickoff return, Bolden's TD tied the score at 17 with 8:37 left in the first half.
The Hoosiers could not return to Purdue territory the rest of the half, and Wiggs made field goals of 43 and 48 yards to give Purdue a 23-17 lead. Wiggs' fourth field goal, a 22-yarder, and Edison's 5-yard TD run made it 33-17 with 11:04 left in the game.
Indiana closed to 33-25 late, but the interception that was not reviewed, and also the only turnover in the game for both teams, sealed Purdue's win and perhaps a bowl trip.
"It was just ridiculous in the locker room, guys were jumping around everywhere, but it's time to celebrate," Edison said. "I think we've done enough to make a bowl game. I'm not trying to think negative anymore; I'm trying to think positive."