BLOOMINGTON — The Indiana football team (6-6, 4-5 B1G East) triumphed in its final home game of the 2016 regular season with a 26-24 win over Purdue (3-9, 1-8 B1G West). Sophomore safety Jonathan Crawford led a swarming defensive effort with three crucial takeaways, including two interceptions and a game-ending fumble recovery.
“I’m proud of our guys to do what they needed to in order to get over the top,” said Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson “The defense played well. I think offensively, they did a great job. To come from behind to get the rival win, to get a win to get to six, have a meaningful game in November. When you don’t play well, still play good enough to win; a lot to build on, a lot to work on.”
The win is Indiana’s fourth consecutive victory against Purdue, which ties the Hoosiers longest winning streak in the Old Oaken Bucket rivalry game (1944-1947) and gives them their highest Big Ten win mark since the 2001 season. Furthermore, IU becomes bowl eligible for the second consecutive season, a first since making back-to-back bowl games in 1990 and 1991.
As is always the case when the Hoosiers and Boilermakers line up on the same turf, the game was hard-fought to the final second. The teams saw four lead changes and one tie, with the decisive score coming in the final five minutes of the game. That play, a 1-yard touchdown run by Devine Redding, capped a thrilling drive.
It began after Griffin Oakes nailed a 46-yard field goal, his second make of the day, to pull within two points. The defense forced a punt after Marcus Oliver delivered a sack 13 yards into the backfield, setting the Hoosiers at their own 39-yard line. Richard Lagow found Luke Timian ver the middle for seven yards and a first down before senior Zander Diamont ompiled 18 yards over four consecutive keepers. Diamont’s attempt to Mitchaell Paige in the end zone drew pass interference, pushing IU into the red zone.
Redding seized the opportunity with a signature scamper, weaving and ripping away from Purdue’s backfield for a 16-yard run toward the 1-yard line. He finished the drive on third-and-goal, giving IU the winning score. Redding’s 99 yards on the ground pushed the junior to his second consecutive 1,000-yard season, a feat at Indiana last achieved by Vaughn Dunbar (1990-91).
The linebacker tandem of Oliver and Tegray Scales dominated Purdue’s backfield, evenly splitting 16 solo tackles, eight tackles for loss, and two sacks. Oliver added a forced fumble to Crawford’s trio of takeaways; Scales’ sack set up a long fourth-down conversion chance, which ended in Crawford’s second INT on Purdue’s final offensive play.
“That is something that we are working toward and working on taking that next step,” Oliver said. “Today was huge in that way. Defenses win championships. You hear that all the time, but you cannot win if you cannot score. We play with that chip on your shoulder, and we play with that mindset that we have to win the gamem, every game. I think today was huge for that.”
Lagow recovered from a slow start to convert 11-of-19 passes for 117 yards, completing all six passing attempts for 42 yards in the second half. In the first half, Lagow found Nick Westbrook 44 yards down the sideline to set up Indiana’s go-ahead score.
Diamont provided additional backfield support with 13 carries for 42 yards and a touchdown. His score came on a read option with Tyler Naee at the goal line, where Diamont retained the rock and used Natee as a battering ram for Indiana’s 14-7 lead.
Redshirt junior Rashard Fant swatted his 47th career pass break-up, the highest tally of any active FBS player. He collaborated on a sack with Patrick Dougherty o force a three-and-out at the end of the third quarter, one of his five total tackles.
Purdue (3-9, 1-8) finished the season with its seventh straight loss — six of those after Gerad Parker took over as interim coach for the fired Darrell Hazell.
“We were hoping those guys could pull it out and send those guys off the right way, something they deserved and we fell short,” Parker said. “Disappointed we couldn’t finish out with these guys.”
Blough was 24 of 45 for 225 yards with two TDs and two interceptions while Yancey finished his college career with six catches for 78 yards. Cameron Posey also had six receptions for 41 yards in his final game as a Boilermaker.
The Hoosiers notched the 11th instance of back-to-back seasons with at least six wins. This year is the first time since 2001 that IU hoisted both the Old Brass Spittoon and the Old Oaken Bucket. They will await their eventual bowl opponent and location as the invitations roll out. The likely suitors are the Foster Farms Bowl in San Francisco or the Music City Bowl in Nashville.
“When you spend time together playing ball, it’s different than when you’re spending time around campus, and the bonds they get and all that,” Wilson said. “You heard the guys—our guys have fun in practice. They love working hard. So to me, it was more about how you just get more time with them than the historical deal about it. I think we are learning from history and we are trying to grow and create our own history and again, proud of these seniors, great group of guys.”