WEST LAFAYETTE – For the third year in a row, the Indiana Hoosiers will enjoy the holidays with the Old Oaken Bucket. It helped to have the Indiana quarterback Nate Sudfeld delivering a five-star performance in the most important game of his college career.
The senior threw for four touchdowns, ran for another, became Indiana’s career passing leader and led the Hoosiers to a monumental 54-36 victory at Purdue that made Indiana bowl eligible for the first time in eight years.
It was an incredible journey. The Hoosiers (6-6, 2-6 Big Ten) opened the season with four straight wins then lost six straight before winning their last two — on the road.
They captured the Old Oaken Bucket for the third consecutive year — something that hadn’t happened since they won four straight from 1944-47. They also won two road games in conference play for the first time since 2001 and back-to-back Big Ten road games for the first time since 1993.
That’s not all. Indiana produced its highest point total ever in West Lafayette, surpassing the mark set in a 52-7 win in 1988. The 90 combined points were the third most scored in this 118-game series.
And Sudfeld did all that in style. He finished 18 of 29 with 350 yards, sealed the win with a 71-yard TD pass to Andre Booker with 10: 15 to play and broke Antwaan Randle El’s school record for yards passing (7,469). Sudfeld has 7,490.
He also had help.
Devine Redding replaced the injured Jordan Howard in the starting lineup and rushed 22 times for a career-high 144 yards and one score with a high-flying show. He hurdled one defender at full speed on a 27-yard run in the first half and then helped set up a key score early in the second half by slicing-and-dicing for a 57-yard run.
Griffin Oakes broke Indiana’s single-season record with his second field goal of the day, giving him 22 this season, and defensive end Nick Mangieri had two sacks to crack the top 10 for one season.
Purdue (2-10, 1-7) was led by Austin Appleby who went 36 of 57 with 332 yards, two TD passes and two touchdown runs after starting in place of the injured David Blough. He also threw two interceptions.
Markell Jones ran 16 times for 96 yards and a score, breaking Purdue’s single-season freshman record for yards. He had 875 yards.
It wasn’t enough to prevent the Boilermakers from finishing the season with four straight losses.
Purdue certainly put a scare into the Hoosiers, who had a seemingly safe 44-28 lead when Oakes lined up for the extra point with 12:22 to play. But Oakes pushed the kick to the right, leaving the door open.
The Boilermakers answered with a 44-yard kickoff return, and four plays later Appleby scored on a 1-yard run. He followed that with a 2-pont conversion to make it 44-36.
But Sudfeld responded quickly. He found the wide open Booker streaking down the right sideline for the long score to make it 51-36 lead. Oakes’ 34-yard field goal with 5:31 left closed out the scoring.