WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – For the first time in their careers, IU’s seniors watched Purdue carry the Old Oaken Bucket off the field victoriously Saturday.
Four straight seasons of rivalry wins made for a confident group of IU upperclassmen that were ready to make history. For the third year in a row, both the Bucket and a bowl berth were on the table for the Hoosiers in their final regular season game. This time around, the job was left unfinished.
Purdue (6-6, 4-5 in the Big Ten) took an early lead and never trailed at Ross-Ade Stadium, leaving the IU (5-7, 2-7) seniors in a near-speechless daze as they reflected on what went wrong.
“I don’t have words right now,” senior linebacker Tegray Scales said of the 31-24 loss. “It is what it is. We gave everything we got. That’s all I can ask for from my team.”
Disappointment was evident and the remnants of tears clearly visible for IU seniors – namely Scales, quarterback Richard Lagow and safety Chase Dutra – players that will head back to Bloomington with bowl hopes dashed and a now-blemished rivalry record.
Dutra’s team-high 11 tackles, Scales’ fumble recovery and Lagow’s three passing touchdowns all helped their team Saturday, but it wasn’t enough. A frenzied late-game comeback effort by the Hoosiers couldn’t erase the Boilermakers’ dominant run game that controlled the afternoon.
After the game, IU Coach Tom Allen showed as much emotion as the players who won’t return next season. It may have been Allen’s first year as head coach of the team’s veterans, but he made his appreciation of them clear.
“I don’t want this to diminish what they’ve accomplished on the field,” Allen said. “There’s a lot of special men in the locker room who are hurting right now.”
The senior class departing IU’s program had the opportunity to achieve so much with a win Saturday, but they won't soon forget what they did do in their four or five years on the team.
IU’s consecutive bowl appearances in the last two seasons marked the first such two-year stretch in decades. Beating Purdue four times in a row hadn’t been done since the 1940s. Saturday’s loss will hurt for a while, but to Dutra and others, the sum of their four years will stick with them for life.
“I’ll cherish these moments forever,” Dutra said. “It just hurts going out like this. To lose to (Purdue) is just one of the lowest things.”
Some will move on from Bloomington to the NFL. Scales and redshirt junior wide receiver Simmie Cobbs Jr., who went through Senior Day festivities last weekend, figure to be chief among those professionally bound IU players.
For his part, Lagow said he’ll train this offseason with possible hopes of a professional career, too. But spending a few more weeks together preparing for another bowl game was what Lagow and company said they wanted most.
“It’s not fun, obviously,” Lagow said. “I really wanted another month with the guys on this team. That’s the most disappointing part about it.”
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