IU Coach Kevin Wilson failed in his first two attempts at defeating Purdue and winning the Old Oaken Bucket.
The Boilermakers defeated the Hoosiers 33-25 in 2011 and 56-35 in 2012, before three separate 100-yard rushers propelled IU to a 56-36 victory in Bloomington in 2013.
The win was the first in what’s become a three-year winning streak against the in-state rival. IU (5-6) last had a streak that long in the 1940s, when the Hoosiers won four straight against the Boilermakers from 1944-47.
Wilson’s squad has a chance to match that feat Saturday, but he’s not focused on that. Someone’s going to win the 2016 matchup, and that team will have earned it. Last year’s winner got last year’s bucket.
“You've recruited, you have developed, you have practiced, you have played your season, and now you're into this game week, and now you have this game week and you go play this game,” Wilson said. “You go about and see if you can do what it takes to earn it. That's all we talk about.”
IU’s defense made up for a fourth quarter letdown against Penn State two weeks ago and held a blistering Michigan attack to just 20 points. The Wolverines torched the Hoosiers for 225 yards on the ground, but only recorded 59 total yards passing.
If defensive coordinator Tom Allen’s group experiences any skew in stats, it’s likely to be in the opposite direction. Purdue (3-8) quarterback David Blough averages 284.3 yards per game and leads the Big Ten’s most prolific passing offense alongside wide receiver DeAngelo Yancey, who is second in the conference in average yards receiving per game with 79.4.
“You get a receiver of that caliber that has his skill set and you get a quarterback that has such a quick release, such a strong arm, and also has deep-ball accuracy, obviously a very tough challenge for our secondary,” Allen said. “We’re going to have to be at our best.”
If the secondary falters, or Purdue’s Big Ten worst rushing attack finds the right holes, IU will need junior quarterback Richard Lagow and the passing attack and junior running back Devine Redding and the run game to form a balanced attack.
Redding and the rest of the Hoosiers who had a carry against Michigan only netted 64 total yards, and while at times Lagow and his receivers did enough to move IU down the field, 191 passing yards wasn’t enough.
Those totals, not to mention a five of 15 third-down conversion clip, won’t be enough against Purdue, either.
The Boilermakers have put in strong first half performances against many opponents this season, and if the Hoosiers fall into a hole and their rival finally puts together a full game, the Old Oaken Bucket might not stay in Bloomington.
“They've had Wisconsin in the first quarter last week 3-0, second quarter got away,” Wilson said. “Northwestern is 14-10 at half. They've got the lead at Minnesota 28-23. They're tied up with Penn State, 17-17, at the half. They have the lead at Nebraska 14-10.”
Purdue interim head coach Gerad Parker certainly wants to see the bucket back on his sideline, and wouldn’t mind possibly ruining IU’s bowl chances.
“We want to get our win, get these seniors out the right way, and get the Bucket back to West Lafayette,” Parker said. “It’s a rivalry week, a lot riding on it for both teams.”