At times it appeared as if neither team wanted to win the Old Oaken Bucket.
IU junior quarterbacks Richard Lagow and Zander Diamont combined for four interceptions — Lagow threw three, Diamont one.
Purdue’s David Blough had two picks of his own, and Brian Lankford-Johnson fumbled on the return following IU’s self-inflicted safety on the game’s final play.
That final turnover, although not as critical as the interception Blough threw to IU sophomore safety Jonathan Crawford in the end zone with just more than a minute remaining, punched IU’s ticket to a bowl game for the second straight season.
The Hoosiers (6-6) escaped with a 26-24 victory over the visiting Boilermakers and captured the Old Oaken Bucket for a fourth-straight year, matching IU’s program-record streak from 1944-47.
But IU Coach Kevin Wilson could not forget the four interceptions.
“Turnovers hurt us, again, early. We got baited on a couple, again, good looks by those guys,” Wilson said. “They kind of had changed some coverage and baited our quarterback.”
Down the stretch, IU cleaned it up and benefited from the Purdue (3-9) offense’s inability earlier in the game to punish the Hoosiers for their mistakes.
The Boilermakers scored just seven points off Hoosier turnovers, reaching the end zone on a 1-yard touchdown run in the game’s first minute after an interception on IU’s third play from scrimmage set up a one-yard drive that lasted just six seconds.
After that, excluding the pick that ended the first half, both Purdue drives that followed interceptions ended with punts. Diamont’s lone interception even set the Boilermakers up with a first and 10 at the IU 31-yard line, and they went backward.
“Defense wins championships,” junior linebacker Marcus Oliver said. “You hear that all the time, but you cannot win if you cannot score. We play with that chip on our shoulder, and we play with that mindset that we have to win the game every game.”
IU defensive coordinator Tom Allen’s group held Purdue to just 267 total yards, only 42 of which came on the ground. The Boilermakers averaged just 1.2 yards per carry.
IU recorded 11 tackles for loss and four sacks. Oliver and fellow junior backer Tegray Scales were each responsible for four tackles for loss and one sack in addition to finishing one-two for IU in tackles.
All this while Lagow and IU’s offense struggled.
Junior running back Devine Redding rushed for 99 yards and a score on 24 carries, but, as a team, IU averaged just 2.8 yards per carry on 54 attempts.
Lagow completed 11-of-19 attempts for just 117 yards and a touchdown. Diamont missed on each of his three attempts, finishing with more interceptions than yards passing.
The Hoosiers scored three points off three Purdue turnovers.
But the defense held on.
It didn’t allow any Purdue points after the Boilermakers scored on the opening drive of the second half, and the Hoosiers scored twice in the fourth quarter to take the lead for good.
“When they’re down we’ve got to pick them up,” junior cornerback Rashard Fant said. “When we’re down they’ve got to pick us up. We feed off each other in the game, and when we’re clicking at the same time that’s even better and more beautiful. But the thing is — you don’t get too high, you don’t get too low. You stay kind of level and try to take the momentum back.”
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