West Lafayette, Ind — Nobody knows how difficult it is to beat Purdue more than IU head coach Tom Allen.
In 2017 and 2018, Allen’s first two seasons as head coach, the Hoosiers fell short in the Old Oaken Bucket game to drop to 5-7 and miss out on a bowl game.
It took three missed field goals from a near-perfect fifth-year kicker, two overtimes and the denial of a multi-score comeback, but Allen can finally say he beat Purdue in an Old Oaken Bucket game.
“It’s always a tough one against Purdue,” Allen said. “I wanted this so bad for our university, for our alumni, for all the people that support us and invested in this program.”
Overcome with emotion following the 44-41 win in double overtime, Allen thanked IU President Michael McRobbie and athletic director Fred Glass for “taking a chance” on him. With a bowl win, Allen would match Bo McMillin’s program record 19 wins in a head coach’s first three seasons.
“I work my tail off to help everyone be successful here, but I’m not guaranteed anything,” Allen said.
The Hoosiers jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first half and didn’t look back. Even when Purdue started applying pressure on defense and pushing the ball down the field on offense, IU stuck to its game plan on both sides of the ball.
Sophomore running back Stevie Scott was inactive with a lower-leg injury, so it was freshman Sampson James’ turn to take the lead snaps out of the backfield for the Hoosiers.
James had just 148 rushing yards the whole season entering the game. At halftime — the freshman had 89 yards and a touchdown to his name on just 15 carries.
“We all knew he (James) could do that from the jump, he just needed his opportunity” junior receiver Whop Philyor said. “He got his opportunity — he just ran with it.”
Philyor also turned in a much-needed offensive performance for the Hoosiers, adding two touchdowns and racking up over 100 receiving yards for the fourth time this season.
James and Philyor combined for 256 total yards and three touchdowns, but IU’s offense became more one-dimensional when James left the game with a lower-leg injury in the fourth quarter.
The Hoosiers were up 28-10 with less than two minutes remaining in the third quarter before the Boilermakers marched down the field for touchdowns on three consecutive drives to tie the game.
IU had trouble stopping sophomore running back Zander Horvath, who finished with 164 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Horvath became the first Purdue player to amass 100 rushing yards in a game this season.
Fifth-year kicker Logan Justus’ three missed field goals, all from the left hash, initially haunted IU’s chances of winning. Coming into the game, Justus' only missed kick was an extra-point. Allen turned to Charles Campbell with a 28-23 lead for a crucial field goal in the fourth quarter, and the redshirt freshman connected on the 41-yard attempt.
Purdue scored on a 20-yard pass and converted a two-point conversion with less than three minutes in regulation to tie the game at 31-31, ultimately sending the game to overtime.
“We never blinked,” Philyor said. “We were always poised and on top of the game.”
Each team scored touchdowns in the first frame, but the Boilermakers were held to a field goal on the first drive of the second overtime.
Two completions from quarterback Peyton Ramsey brought the ball down to the one-yard line, but Ramsey pushed through a pile and scored the go-ahead touchdown on his feet to clinch IU’s first eight-win season since 1993.
“Those are the kind of things you dream about,” Ramsey said. “Having an opportunity to go win nine, it means a lot.”
On Dec. 8, the Hoosiers will learn their postseason fate and where they’ll play a bowl game once all the conference championships are played.