Three minutes into the second quarter, Indiana football senior defensive back Jaylin Williams jumped a route from Purdue, perfectly timing an interception and taking it all the way back to the end zone.
Behind him, sitting near the 25-yard line, was a yellow flag. Indiana was called for pass interference on the play, negating the pick-six and making way for a Purdue touchdown one play later.
“That was a big blow,” head coach Tom Allen said in a postgame press conference. “That was tough. We needed some confidence and that was the first takeaway we got in a while. Just disappointed it worked out the way it did.”
The 14-point swing was indicative of a game where Indiana’s mistakes proved too much to overcome in a 44-7 loss to Purdue on Saturday in West Lafayette, Indiana.
With the loss, Indiana finished the season with a 2-10 record, its worst since finishing 1-11 in 2011.
“I’ve never been through a season this difficult,” Allen said. “My heart breaks for these players. I know how hard we’ve all worked.”
The Hoosiers picked up 205 yards on offense, including 147 passing yards from sophomore quarterback Grant Gremel in his first career start.
“I don’t think we executed the way we wanted to,” Gremel said. “That’s kinda been the theme all season.”
Purdue’s fifth year quarterback Aidan O’Connell threw for 278 yards on 26-31 passing and had four touchdowns.
“It’s tough when a quarterback is getting the ball out that fast,” senior linebacker Micah McFadden said. “Can’t really get a pass rush game when it’s coming out that quick.”
Indiana’s only touchdown came on its first drive of the game. Gremel threw for 55 yards. Freshman quarterback Donaven McCulley scored on a two-yard rushing touchdown to cap off the drive.
Allen said Indiana’s ability to continue offensive success after the first drive has been frustrating all year.
“The ability for us not to be able to sustain that, it’s just that’s what you have to be able to do,” Allen said. “That’s part of the ability to adapt.”
Indiana looked like it had snuffed a fourth down in the red zone on Purdue’s first drive. Purdue tried to throw a pass toward the back of the end zone that Indiana’s defense broke up, but Williams ran directly into junior tight end Payne Durham and was called for a pass interference. Purdue scored two plays later.
On offense, the Hoosiers had a chance to bring the game back within one score right before the half, but junior kicker Charles Campbell missed his attempt wide to the left. Earlier in the drive, they had reached the Boilermakers’ 26-yard line before a bad snap slipped past Gremel for a 21-yard loss.
“We just gotta lock in and focus every play,” Gremel said. “We just have slips here and there. Really, we just shoot ourselves in the foot. It’s not what other teams do to us, it’s what we do to ourselves.”
Indiana went winless in conference play for the first time since 2011. It scored 87 points in conference play and had the second worst scoring offense in the Big Ten, averaging just 17.25 points per game.
“It was tough,” Gremel said. “Obviously a lot of tears. This meant so much to a lot of people. No one expected this season to go the way it did.”