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IU will look to Purdue as its bowl game


By Nathan Hart

For the 15th time in 16 seasons, the IU football team will not be participating in a bowl game.

So while the season ends Saturday against Purdue, the Hoosiers are trying their best to give this week’s game its own bowl game atmosphere.

“This is our bowl game right here,” senior defensive end Jammie Kirlew said.
IU senior running back Bryan Payton said he had not considered the game that way but admitted that’s how it might play out.

“It’s our bowl game because it’s all we’ve got,” Payton said.

To some extent, the heightened intensity concerning the Old Oaken Bucket game is an annual experience. But this week’s game has just one focus: pride.

Neither Purdue nor IU will play in a bowl game this year – only the third time this decade that the season ends for both teams in November.

The setup could’ve been very different had IU (4-7, 1-6) or Purdue (4-7, 3-4) won last week – Saturday’s rivalry game would be a play-in for bowl eligibility.

But that’s not what happened and, suddenly, 21 IU seniors will be participating in their final collegiate game.

Payton said his focus will rise in preparation for the rivalry game.

“You like to think that you play hard every week and you prepare hard every week,” Payton said, “but this one is double everything else.”

Payton added that the rivalry game’s intensity  is part of the “joy of sport.”

“Matter of fact, I think it’d be cool if the officials can hold their flags a little bit for this game,” Payton said.

And while the game is not a bowl, it does provide its own intrigue.

“It’s a huge game,” IU junior quarterback Ben Chappell said. “It’s the game of the year for us, and we just have to prepare one day at a time.

“It’s our biggest prize, and we’re going after it.”

IU coach Bill Lynch emphasized that this week was a special one. A win, he added, would be special for two reasons: it would send the seniors off with a good memory and propel the returning players into winter and spring practice.

“If you’re not going to play in a bowl game, your seniors end with a positive feeling and that good feeling in the locker room singing the fight song,” Lynch said.

For the rest of the players, it provides “an extra bounce in the step” as they lift weights in the winter and begin spring practice.

When putting this week’s game into perspective, Payton did not want to overestimate the magnitude of it. But he couldn’t avoid its importance.

“I don’t want to call it the biggest game in my life, but looking back, it may turn out that way,” Payton said.

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