Going into the 1997 football season both Purdue and Indiana were entrenched at the bottom of the Big Ten standings. Indiana had just finished a run where they had won the Old Oaken Bucket seven times in 11 years, which is one of their longest runs of sustained success in the series since they won seven of eight from 1940-47. Purdue followed that by going 17-1-1 over the next 19 seasons before Indiana won the only matchup ever that had national implications since both teams shared the Big Ten title.
Purdue's run after the 7-in-11 by Indiana in the late 80's and early 90's would rival that. Since both Jim Colletto and Bill Mallory were dismissed after the Hoosiers won 33-16 in 1996 (breaking a 15-game Big Ten losing streak for Indiana) both teams would start over pretty much at rock bottom. The teams diverged greatly over the 16 seasons since 1996. Purdue would go on to win the Bucket 13 times, often in convincing fashion. Indiana's three victories were white-knuckled games that came down to the final minute each time.
Outside the series, Purdue, despite being 1-10 right now, had a ton of success. Joe Tiller immediately turned the program around in 1997, going 9-3 after being 3-8 the previous season and missing a bowl game for 12 straight years. Purdue would reach a bowl game in eight consecutive seasons and eventually go to 12 out the 16 years, never losing fewer than four games. Indiana continued in the college football wilderness, reaching only a single bowl game, which was just their ninth in school history. They are also on their fifth head coach while Purdue is on only its third (though the tragedy of Terry Hoeppner is certainly beyond their control).
It has been a very fun 16 years, but on Saturday Indiana enters 116th edition of one of the nation's most played FBS rivalries as the overwhelming favorite for the first time in decades. Indiana is currently a three touchdown favorite, something that likely has not been the case since the Hoosiers won 52-7 in 1988 in West Lafayette. The Hoosiers have not won a Bucket Game by more than a touchdown since 1990, but that seems very likely to change on Saturday.
Fortunately, on the good side of the rivalry we haven't had such bad luck. Here is how the last 16 games have looked from the rosy Black & Gold perspective;
1997: Purdue 56, Indiana 7 in Bloomington - Purdue took the Bucket back by force to start the run, scoring the most points ever scored in the Bucket portion of the series that started in 1925. Purdue scored twice on defense and even little-used running back Tarrah Graham had a 49-yard TD run. Drew Brees also added a late TD run as Purdue scored 28 fourth quarter points.
Purdue finished 9-3 after winning the Alamo Bowl over Oklahoma State, while Indiana finished 2-9 under first year coach Cam Cameron.
1998: Purdue 52, Indiana 7 in West Lafayette - This was my first Bucket game as a student and it was a fun one. Indiana took an early lead when Antwann Randle El scored on a four-yard run about 7 minutes in. I specifically remember an Indiana fan in front of me turning around to taunt. He got very quiet as Purdue scored 52 unanswered points behind 237 yards and 4 TDs from Brees. Even Brees' backup, David Edgerton, threw a pair of touchdown passes.
Purdue went on to finish 9-4 with a win over No. 4 Kansas State in the Alamo Bowl, while Indiana was 4-7.
1999: Purdue 30, Indiana 24 in Bloomington - This was a close one, as Vinny Sutherland's punt return for a score early in the fourth quarter was enough for the boilermaker victory. Purdue struggled to consistently move the ball but had no turnovers. One near turnover was almost recovered by Indiana linebacker Herman Fowler, who was a high school classmate of mine. Fortunately, he couldn't come up with it and Purdue avoided giving Indiana the ball in great position. This was also the last time before this season I did not attend a Bucket game.
Purdue finished 7-5 after choking in the Outback Bowl while Indiana went 4-7 again.
2000: Purdue 41, Indiana 13 in West Lafayette - This will always be remembered by me as the No Effing Way game. Needing to only beat a 3-7 Indiana team to reach its first Rose Bowl in 34 years and with Brees playing his final game at Ross-Ade Stadium there was No. F*&^ing. Way we were losing this game. Instead of Brees going nuts it was Montrell Lowe that rushed for over 200 yards and 4 TDs.
For only the third time in its history the Bucket had roses as Purdue was off to Pasadena.
2001: Indiana 13, Purdue 7 in Bloomington - This was the first time I ever visited Bloomington and it was not a fond memory. The game was played in an utter monsoon, but for some reason Purdue still passed 62 times. Levron Williams had a 52-yard TD run and Randle El also had a TD before John Standeford made it 13-7 in the third quarter. Then you had a rare defensive standoff. Purdue got inside the IU 20 twice in the fourth quarter, but turned it over on downs each time. The first was when Lowe was stuffed at the goal line on fourth down. Just a year after running for over 200 yards and four scores Lowe was held to 10 yards on five carries.
Purdue went on to finish 6-6 with a loss to Notre Dame in a game rescheduled due to September 11 and a loss to Washington State in the Sun Bowl. Indiana finished 5-6, mostly because Cameron was too dumb to play Randle El at QB for two games when he may have been the best player in college football. He was fired after the season.
2002: Purdue 34, Indiana 10 in West Lafayette - The Bucket only had a short stay in Bloomington before coming back home to West Lafayette for a five year stretch thanks to Brandon Jones. The running back clinched bowl eligibility for the Boilers by rushing for 131 yards and two touchdowns. Just two weeks earlier the Boilers lost in heartbreaking fashion to eventual National Champ Ohio State.
The win moved Purdue to the Sun Bowl again where it beat Washington. Indiana finished 3-9 in the first year under Gerry DiNardo.
2003: Purdue 24, Indiana 16 in Bloomington - This was an ugly game for Purdue, as it slept through the game and barely won. Just a week before, Purdue had an outside shot as a BCS bowl before losing in overtime to Ohio State. Purdue never trailed an Indiana team that finished 2-10, but it never truly dominated, either. In my opinion this was Tiller's best team in terms of balance. The defense was excellent (the last great defense we had) and the offense had Kyle Orton with three solid running backs in Jerod Void, Jerome Brooks, and Brandon Jones. Void had 141 yards rushing and a TD while John Standeford had 151 yards receiving and two scores.
Purdue went on to finish 9-4 with an overtime loss to Georgia in the Capitol One Bowl.
2004: Purdue 63, Indiana 24 in West Lafayette - The 1997 record for most points in the Bucket era was broken in Orton's final game as Purdue's offense vented after the four-game losing streak earlier in the season. Orton threw for a school record 522 yards and six touchdowns while Taylor Stubblefield established the NCAA career receptions mark. Purdue had an astounding 763 yards of total offense and should have won by more. There were at least two wide open touchdowns dropped and Indiana had a 74-yard fumble return for one of its scores. The beating was so bad that DiNardo was fired after only three seasons.
Purdue finished 7-5 after losing the Sun Bowl to Arizona State. We all remember starting 5-0 and being ranked No. 5 before an event known as The Fumble.
2005: Purdue 41, Indiana 14 in Bloomington - This was a rather gloomy game as Purdue missed a bowl game for the first time under Joe tiller. The season started with promise as Purdue was ranked in the top 15 and was a dark horse National title contender thanks to a schedule that did not include Michigan or Ohio State. After starting 2-0 the defense completely fell apart during a six game losing streak. Still, a 4-7 Indiana team was no match for a Purdue team that finally played up to its abilities. Kory Sheets had 137 yards and three touchdowns in this one, but Purdue would finish 5-6.
2006: Purdue 28, Indiana 19 in West Lafayette - This was probably the ugliest of the last 16 Bucket games, as at least the 13-7 game in 1999 had good defense. Curtis Painter threw four interceptions and Purdue lost a fumble, but Indiana lost a fumble. This game is more famous for there being turnovers on the same play.
Purdue lost at Hawaii a week later and barely showed up in a loss to Maryland in the Champs Sports Bowl. Indiana finished 5-7 and just barely missed a bowl, mostly because they lost at home to FCS Southern Illinois in a game Terry Hoeppner missed due to surgery for a brain tumor.
2007: Indiana 27, Purdue 24 in Bloomington - If there was ever a game where you didn't feel as bad losing to Indiana, it was this one. This is pretty much the only game ever shown featuring Indiana in a good light on Big Ten's Greatest Games, but it was a good one. After coach Hoeppner died in the offseason Bill Lynch took over and "Play 13" was born. Indiana entered at 6-5, but needed a win to assure bowl eligibility. This is back when 6-6 meant conditional bowl eligibility and a Big Ten that saw Minnesota finish 1-11 and a bunch of easy non-conference games meant that 10 of the 11 teams had won six games. Indiana needed a seventh win in order assure it would go to its first bowl game since 1993. It got it after Austin Starr kicked the game-winner with less than a minute left. It was needed because Purdue stormed back after trailing 24-3 to tie it at 24-24.
Purdue finished 8-5 with an exciting win in the Motor City Bowl while Indiana, after breaking a five-game winning streak by Purdue, lost to Oklahoma State in the Insight.com Bowl. Only in 2007 and in 1979 have both Purdue and Indiana gone to a bowl game in the same season.
2008: Purdue 62, Indiana 10 in West Lafayette - Joe Tiller's final season sucked for the most part. Purdue nearly beat a pretty good Oregon team in Ross-Ade and had a memorable shootout win over Michigan, but not much else went right. The Boilers finished 4-8 and at one point, for three plays, were down to a fourth string walk-on at quarterback. That didn't matter against Indiana. In Tiller's final game Purdue scored on every drive except the final one, which ended on down inside the Indiana 20. Curtis Painter threw for 448 yards and five TDs as Tiller won his record 87th victory as Purdue's head coach.
Indiana finished 3-9 and started a run of 3-32 in Big Ten play.
2009: Purdue 38, Indiana 21 in Bloomington - Remember when we all liked Danny Hope? Around the time Purdue won this game to go 5-7 everyone was excited for Hope. Sure, we missed a bowl game again, but Purdue was legitimately a handful of plays from being 10-2. Purdue jumped ahead 21-0 in this one and never let the lead get under 10 as Joey Elliott threw four TD passes to four different receivers. Jaycen Taylor also ended his Purdue career on a high note with 110 yards rushing, 59 yards receiving, and a touchdown.
Indiana would finish 4-8, but was 1-7 in Big Ten play beating only Illinois.
2010: Indiana 34, Purdue 31 OT in West Lafayette - The only Bucket Game to ever go to overtime ended a dismal season for Purdue. The Boilers ended the season on a six-game losing streak with virtually everyone injured as Mitch Ewald's overtime field goal gave Indiana its first win in West Lafayette in 14 years. Purdue looked like it was in firm control up 21-7 midway through the second quarter against an Indiana team that had lost 12 straight Big Ten games, but Tandon Doss would have three TD catches and Ewald would tie it with nine seconds left on a field goal. Rob Henry threw a back-breaking interception on Purdue's overtime possession before Ewald kicked the game-winner.
Indiana finished 5-7 but still fired Bill Lynch. Purdue finished 4-8 and had virtually every major skill player injured at one point. It did not play a single Big Ten game with all-Big Ten receiver Keith Smith, all-Big Ten running back Ralph Bolden, or the heralded Robert Marve.
2011: Purdue 33, Indiana 25 in Bloomington - Needing a win to get to a bowl game for the first time since 2007 Purdue got it. This was a fairly tight game as Carson Wiggs had to kick four field goals, but Purdue held on for the win thanks to 100yards rushing by Akeem Hunt. Caleb TerBush also threw for 192 yards and a score.
Purdue went on to win the Little Caesar's Bowl over Western Michigan, while Indiana finished 1-11.
2012: Purdue 56, Indiana 35 in West Lafayette - The most recent edition of the Bucket game set a record for most combined points scored as Purdue re-established order in West Lafayette. The Boilers clinched a bowl birth despite starting the season 3-6, but it would still cost Danny Hope his job. Akeem Shavers scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter to break open a 35-35 tie with just over 10 minutes left. Cameron Coffman was also picked off three times. The story was Robert Marve, however, who threw for 348 yards and four scores, plus he ran down his only interception for a tackle on a thrice torn ACL that was all heart.
Purdue finished 6-7 after getting drilled in the Heart of Dallas Bowl, while Indiana was 4-8.
So do things change on Saturday? I admit, things are loosing up a lot more for Indiana than Purdue for the first time in a long time. All Indiana needs is merely a bad defense to go with that offense and they are a bowl team this year, while Purdue very easily could be 0-11. The recruiting rankings also favor Indiana for now. We could be in for a turning point in the series starting Saturday.