It was not the way the leader of the self-proclaimed group “TBIA” (The Best In America) was supposed to play against the team’s biggest rival.
It was not the way the charismatic wideout was supposed to be remembered at IU.
The redshirt senior lost two fumbles that set up momentum-shifting Purdue touchdowns.
But Turner shook off the fumbles and ended his run at IU with a career day in the Hoosiers’ 34-31 win Saturday for the Old Oaken Bucket.
“I just forgot about it,” Turner said. “You would think that I had it on my mind, but after it happened I went to sideline and I thought about why it happened and a way to fix it.”
Turner’s 10 receptions, which were a career high, went for 100 yards.
While he led the Hoosiers in receiving, it was his miscue on special teams that plagued the Hoosiers early on.
Trailing 14-7, the IU defense forced a three-and-out before Purdue could get inside IU territory. Instead of sending out first-string punt returner Tandon Doss, the coaching staff decided to give him a breather before the next offensive possession.
With Doss briefly on the shelf, Turner assumed the punt returning duties.
Turner located the high punt and waved his hand for a fair catch. It was just business as usual. The Hoosiers would have a chance to tie it up as the first half wound down.
But Turner muffed the punt.
A swarm of black jerseys feasted on the loose ball before Turner could get a chance to cover up his mistake. The Boilermakers recovered on the IU 10-yard line to set themselves up to gain a two-possession lead.
Three plays later, the Boilermakers punched it into paydirt to make it a 21-7 game.
Turner’s struggles continued.
With the Hoosiers threatening to break a 21-21 tie in the third quarter, senior quarterback Ben Chappell dumped off a short pass to Turner with an open field ahead. Turner bobbled the pass and gained possession as he prepared to absorb the hit.
But just like it did on the fair catch, the ball squirted out.
The Boilermakers again pounced on the Turner fumble and flipped the switch on the Hoosiers. Instead of the Hoosiers potentially taking their first lead of the game, Turner’s fumble gave the Boilermakers the momentum.
They made sure to make it hurt.
On the first play after the fumble, Purdue quarterback Rob Henry completed a 52-yard touchdown pass to receiver Cortez Smith to regain a 28-21 lead.
Instead of getting lit up on the sidelines for his fumbles, however, Turner got an encouraging response from his teammates.
“There are some football teams where when a guy makes a bad play, it’s like they got a disease and everybody stays away from them,” IU coach Bill Lynch said. “On that sideline, there were 69 other guys rallying around him.”
Determined to keep his classmate in the mix, Chappell kept targeting Turner. With the Hoosiers still behind 28-21 in the early minutes of the fourth quarter, IU was in need of a big play to get into Purdue territory.
Turner delivered it.
Chappell launched a 38-yard pass that floated into Turner’s hands as he went out of bounds at the Purdue 11-yard line. The over-the-shoulder grab was not only Turner’s longest career reception, but it also set up a game-tying touchdown pass to Doss.
“The team that stays steady throughout is the team that’s going to come out on top, and I think he summed it up to a T,” receivers coach Billy Lynch said. “He came back and answered with that catch on the table when we had to turn around and score.”
Turner was not done erasing his rough start.
Trailing 31-28, the coaching staff called on Turner’s number again to overcome a deficit. Turner’s three catches on the final drive of regulation helped set up a game-tying field goal to force overtime.
After seeing the game-winning field goal by redshirt freshman kicker Mitch Ewald split the uprights, Turner sprinted onto the field with jubilation.
Their first Big Ten win.
An overtime win over the bitter rival.
A five-year career ending the way it was supposed to.
“It’s real emotional because the guys you fought with for four and five years all culminates to a win for the Bucket,” Turner said. “When you’re able to win one and go out with a win with your brothers, it’s crazy, man. It’s unexplainable.”
All of these emotions surfaced for Turner as he triumphantly hoisted the Bucket with his teammates for the last time. He went from potentially being the goat to one of the heroes in a game that will be remembered for years to come among the IU faithful.
“He’s the best leader I’ve ever been around,” Billy Lynch said. “I’m just so proud of him in the way he bounced back.”
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