Nov. 23, 1997: Boilers bury IU for bucket, 56-7. Most lopsided series victory in a century. (By Tom Kubat, Journal and Courier)
While that wasn't a reflection of the damage the Purdue football team inflicted on this day (the turf is being replaced by grass for next season), it could have been.
Because in the 100th renewal of this intrastate civil war, the Boilermakers totally dismantled the Hoosiers 56-7 to hand Indiana its worse loss against Purdue in more than a century. Since 1893, to be exact.
But more than regaining the bucket, the victory capped off a surprising 8-3 season for Purdue -- the Boilermakers' first eight-win season since 1980, and their first winning season in 13 years.
Purdue finished 6-2 in Big Ten Conference play and will wind up either tied for second or tied for third.
"I think this makes it a great season," Purdue quarterback Billy Dicken said.
Walking off the field after the game with Boilermaker coach Joe Tiller, Dicken said it was great to win, even though it was ugly.
While most Boilermaker fans would argue that no victory over the Hoosiers would qualify as ugly, in a way he was right.
For the first half, the heavy underdog Hoosiers, who finished 2-9 and 1-7, were still in the game. They were trailing 21-7 at the break, and the score could have easily been tied.
After Purdue scored on the game's opening drive, with Edwin Watson running 14 yards for the score, Indiana came right back.
IU quarterback Jay Rodgers passed to tight end Ben Klusmeyer for an apparent 24-yard TD, but Purdue's Lamar Conard stripped the ball loose. Boilermaker linebacker Lee Johnson recovered the fumble in the end zone.
"It's been the same situation all year," first-year Indiana coach Cam Cameron said. "You are trying to give your team a chance to score, and we had opportunities early. But when we had a chance to score a touchdown, you need to score a touchdown, not a touchback."
Little did Cameron know, the bad breaks would get worse.
After the teams traded TDs -- with Dicken scoring on a 6-yard run and Indiana scoring on a 42-yard pass from Rodgers to O.J. Conner -- the game pretty much turned on one play.
Indiana tailback Jason Spear fumbled after getting hit by Rocco Foggio seconds after taking a handoff, and the ball bounced into the hands of that man Johnson, again.
Johnson, a converted running back, returned it 35 yards for a touchdown to make it 21-7 with only 50 seconds remaining in the opening half.
That was the clincher.
"It was a close game at the half, and they were unfortunate, because they could have had the lead," Tiller said. "It was a matter of turnovers. Once we got a couple of turnovers that resulted in scores, that's a real deep hole for a team to climb out of and come back."
But to make sure the Hoosiers stayed down, Tiller and his staff took a different approach in the locker room at halftime.
"Before the game, we didn't want our players to leave the everything in the locker room, so we tried to calm them down," Tiller said. "And they weren't very aggressive in the first half. So at halftime we talked about playing more aggressively. We kind of stoked them a bit."
And the Boilermakers stoked the Hoosiers, outscoring them 35-0 in the final two quarters, including 28-0 in the fourth quarter.
Watson, whose 163 yards rushing gave him his third consecutive 100-yard game, started things off by running 48 yards for his second TD.
And in the last quarter, the Purdue scoring came fast and furious, with Dicken passing 16 yards to Isaac Jones, linebacker Mike Rose returning an interception 24 yards, reserve quarterback Drew Brees running 5 yards and little-used running back Tarah Graham running 49 yards.
The Hoosiers' bucket had sprung a leak.
And the Boilermakers' Cinderella season was complete.
"It's been a fun ride," said Jones, who caught six passes for 56 yards. "To win this game, to go 8-3 and know we're going to a bowl game is just a great feeling. This is definitely icing on the cake."
"We were too cool," senior running back Edwin Watson said. "We were a little overconfident. We were moving the ball, but we weren't making plays."
Watson changed all that with a 48-yard touchdown run with 1:08 left in third quarter to give Purdue a 28-7 lead. From there, it got ugly as the No. 23-ranked Boilermakers scored 28 points in the fourth quarter in a 56-7 rout of IU before a Memorial Stadium crowd of 46,599.
Purdue quarterback Billy Dicken said Watson's big gainer woke up a struggling offense.
"They were blitzing a lot and getting some pressure on me, and Ed came through with a big run at a great time," the senior said.
Watson finished with a season-high 163 yards on 18 carries, his third consecutive 100-yard game.
"He's really answered the challenge since (running back) Kendall Matthews was hurt (in game seven)," Purdue coach Joe Tiller said.
The Boilermakers, who finished the regular season 8-3 overall and 6-2 in the Big Ten, only had a 58-yard edge (531-473) in total yards. However, the Hoosiers were plagued by five turnovers. Two were returned by Purdue for touchdowns, a 35-yard fumble recovery by linebacker Lee Johnson and a 24-yard interception by linebacker Mike Rose.
"If you're a veteran football team, you're not going to win with mistakes, much less an inexperienced football team like we are," said coach Cam Cameron, whose Hoosiers finished 2-9 and 1-7 in the Big Ten.
The Boilermakers, who won eight games for the first time since a 9-2 mark in 1980, now await the bowl pairings announcement on Dec. 7. Purdue will likely go to either the Outback Bowl in Tampa, Fla., on Jan. 1 or the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio on Dec. 30. The Outback has the third choice of Big Ten teams. Alamo has the fourth.
"Hopefully, we'll go to Tampa and see our old buddy Mike Alstott," Dicken said of the former Purdue and current Tampa Bay Buccaneers fullback.
This was the 100th meeting between the state rivals and it was Purdue's most-lopsided victory since a 64-0 romp in 1893 and the biggest ever at IU. Purdue leads the series 60-34-6, 46-24-3 since the teams began playing for the Old Oaken Bucket.
The road team has won four in a row, including a 33-16 victory by IU in '96.
"Last year's game was a total embarrassment for us," Purdue senior defensive tackle Leo Perez said. "We weren't going to go out that way. I wouldn't have wanted to go to a bowl game if we would have lost (Saturday)."
"Coming in here and losing would have been a travesty," Dicken added.
Purdue jumped ahead 14-0 in the first quarter on TD runs of 14 yards by Watson and 6 yards by Dicken. IU closed the gap to 14-7 on a 42-yard scoring pass from quarterback Jay Rodgers to O.J. Conner.
With less than a minute to go in the first half, IU running back Jason Spear fumbled and Purdue's Johnson scooped it up and went 35 yards for the score.
"It felt good to have the ball in my hands again," said Johnson, who moved from running back to the defense in spring practice.
Despite the 21-7 halftime lead, Tiller wasn't pleased with the first-half showing. Rodgers completed 18 of 24 passes for 235 yards in the opening half, picking Purdue apart with screens and short passes.
Tiller conveyed that disappointment in a halftime meeting.
"We talked about playing to our standard," Tiller said. "We were too flat to start the game. We were sitting back on our heels defensively."
The Boilermakers' defense really seemed to pick it up when it stopped IU on fourth-and-goal from the Purdue 3-yard line with 10:13 left in the third quarter.
The defense played without starting defensive end Warren "Ike" Moore, who suffered a dislocated elbow in Thursday's practice. Former starter Chukie Nwokorie took his place.
Purdue 14 7 7 28--56
Indiana 0 7 0 0-- 7
PU -- Watson 14 run (Ryan kick) 12:45. Drive: 7 plays, 70 yards, 2:15. Key play: Jones' 13-yard catch on third-and-9. Purdue 7, Indiana 0.
PU -- Dicken 6 run (Ryan kick) 5:57. Drive: 6 plays, 80 yards, 2:29. Key play: Alford's 43-yard catch to the IU 6. Purdue 14, Indiana 0.
IU -- Conner 42 pass from Rodgers (Payne kick) 13:38. Drive: 6 plays, 80 yards, 2:12. Key plays: Rodgers' passing precision (5 of 5). Purdue 14, Indiana 7.
PU -- Johnson 35 fumble recovery (Ryan kick) 0:50. Purdue 21, Indiana 7.
PU -- Watson 48 run (Ryan kick) 1:08. Drive: 1 play, 48 yards, 0:08. Key play: Conard's interception off Beasley's tip. Purdue 28, Indiana 7.
PU -- Jones 16 pass from Dicken (Ryan kick) 13:06. Drive: 6 plays, 52 yards, 1:44. Key play: Alford's 15-yard catch to the IU 20. Purdue 35, Indiana 7.
PU -- Rose 24 interception return (Ryan kick) 12:42. Purdue 42, Indiana 7.
PU -- Brees 5 run (Ryan kick) 9:18. Drive: 5 plays, 56 yards, 1:21. Key plays: Daniels' two catches worth 45 yards. Purdue 49, Indiana 7.
PU -- Graham 49 run (Ryan kick) 1:36. Drive: 5 plays, 72 yards, 2:24. Purdue 56, Indiana 7.
A -- 46,599.
RUSHING--Purdue, Watson 18-163, Graham 2-50, Haddad 5-29, Dicken 9-10, Brees 1-5, Alford 1-(minus 8). Indiana, Grubbs 8-76, Spear 16-69, Kirn 1-2, Rodgers 5-(minus 15).
PASSING--Purdue, Dicken 16-30-1-204, Brees 4-9-0-78. Indiana, Rodgers 28-49-2-342, Haniford 1-2-0-(minus 1), Kirn 0-1-1-0.
RECEIVING--Purdue, I.Jones 6-56, Alford 5-115, Daniels 2-45, Clopton 2-33, Watson 2-9, Tillman 1-14, V.Sutherland 1-6, Winston 1-4. Indiana, Spear 16-147, Browning 4-49, Klusmeyer 4-42, Conner 2-84, Maxwell 2-20, Grubbs 1-(minus 1).
But Boilermaker quarterback Billy Dicken can be excused for anticipating Saturday's game at Bloomington a little more than most.
All because of one play in the 1994 Bucket game that almost ruined his career.
"This is a huge game for me," said Dicken, a fifth-year senior. "My first injury that really hurt me here at Purdue came against IU. So this is kind of like payback. It's a game I'm really looking forward to, and hopefully I'll have a good showing."
Dicken remembers the fateful play well. He was rolling out to the right, out of his own end zone. While being tackled, he tried to pass and fell on his right, throwing shoulder.
"He dove and grabbed my legs," Dicken said. "It wasn't a dirty hit or anything. When I was going down, I threw the ball and landed on my arm. That was it.
"I don't mean payback in a derogatory way. That ruined a lot of my career. It'd be nice to get back and beat them."
Dicken suffered a dislocated shoulder. But the rehabilitation process was made more complicated when it was discovered during surgery that he also had a previous rotator cuff injury.
It took a long time for Dicken to regain his range of motion and arm strength.
The injury did not allow him to play quarterback the following season, although he returned in time to play in the secondary and on special teams in the final five games.
Last season he returned to quarterback, and played in the first three games, starting twice. But he fractured his sternum against West Virginia and was sidelined for the rest of the season.
No wonder Dicken has enjoyed his resurgence this year running first-year coach Joe Tiller's spread offense.
Coming into this year, Dicken had thrown only 163 passes, completing 84 for 1,111 yards, with four touchdowns and seven interceptions.
But this year, he's tripled his attempts and more than doubled his production -- completing 190 of 343 passes for 2,607 yards, with 18 TDs and 12 interceptions.
That's the sixth-best, single-season passing performance by a Purdue QB, and it has him currently ranked as the top passer in the Big Ten Conference.
But there's unfinished business for Dicken. Beating Indiana.
"It's so emotional, that when you win you feel even a lot better than beating somebody like Michigan, and when you lose you feel worse than when you lose to somebody like Toledo," he said.
"It's definitely a big game for us. If we win, obviously we go to a much better bowl game than if we lose. And for Indiana, it'll make their season if they can beat us. It's kind of like their bowl game."
Purdue, at 7-3 overall and 5-2 in the Big Ten, is playing for a possible New Year's Day bowl invite. The Hoosiers, at 2-8 and 1-6, are playing to keep the Bucket they won by virtue of last year's 33-16 victory.
Dicken is still looking for his first victory against IU, in games he's played in.
The Boilermakers lost the game after he dislocated his shoulder, 33-29. He missed Purdue's 51-14 victory in '95, and he had a near-interception in last year's loss.
"I definitely haven't forgotten last year," Dicken said. "That was embarrassing, frankly. We definitely don't want to feel like that again. This is a real important game for us, to maybe get to a New Year's bowl.
"I want to beat these guys more than anybody else."
The Hoosiers will be playing for bragging rights, and trying to salvage their season.
And, oh yeah, both teams also will be playing for the Old Oaken Bucket.
Boilermaker defensive tackle Greg Smith said he won't let the higher stakes cloud his focus on beating Indiana.
"Actually, I plan to pretty much put all that other stuff out of my mind," he said. "It's not too much of a strain on your brain to think about it, wondering where we're going to go. But Saturday, we'll try to take care of business and take care of our game."
The Boilermakers, 7-3 overall and 5-2 in the Big Ten Conference, are 12 1/2 point favorites over Indiana. The Hoosiers, 2-8 and 1-6, have beaten only Ball State of the Mid-American Conference and winless Illinois in league play.
Running back Edwin Watson, who suffered a slight concussion in Purdue's 42-17 loss to Penn State, was held out of Sunday's practice. The Boilermakers have today off, but Watson said he expects to return to practice Tuesday and to be ready for the Hoosiers.
Whenever Purdue and Indiana meet, you're sure to hear coaches and players talk about throwing out the records. They don't mean anything, they'll say.
Purdue (7-3, 5-2) at Indiana (2-8, 1-6)
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