It is Bucket week, and there is always extra motivation when the Bucket is not in West Lafayette. After Joe Tiller went 10-2 against the Hoosiers and Danny Hope followed with a 3-1 stretch Purdue fans got really used to keeping possession of the trophy. That 13-3 run was the most dominant in the series since Purdue went 17-1-1 against IU from 1948-66.
Then Darrell Hazell happened.
That four game losing streak is still fresh in the minds of fans. Combined with no game last year and the double OT win for Indiana in 2019, the rivalry has had a big reversal with Indiana controlling it for most of the last decade. The 2019 game, which was the last to date, was a wild 44-41 affair where Aidan O’Connell, David Bell, and Zander Horvath went crazy in the rain, but Purdue’s defense couldn’t get some key stops. It ended with a walk-off touchdown, the fifth time in two seasons Purdue lost on the very last snap of a game.
Before the season it looked like there would be much higher stakes coming in. Many thought Purdue would struggle for a bowl, while Indiana was a top 20 preseason team with a ton of hype as a possible Big Ten dark horse. Well, that horse has gone to the glue factory as the Hoosiers stumble in at 0-8 in the league with a horrifically bad offense. Purdue is a big favorite, but we’re Purdue fans. We know any stumble is possible.
2020 Record: 6-2
2021 Record: 2-9, 0-8
Bowl Result: Lost to Mississippi 26-20 in Outback Bowl
Blog Representation: Crimson Quarry
Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 74-42-6
Last Purdue win: 28-21 at Indiana on 11/24/2018
Last Indiana win: 44/41 (2OT) at Purdue on 11/30/2019
Head Coach: Tom Allen (26-31 in 5th year at Indiana)
Their Season So Far
In short, it has been a complete disaster almost from the start. Purdue has played a tough schedule with five opponents currently in the top 18, but at least we beat two of them. Indiana has played #4, #5, #6, #7, and #17 in the latest CFP rankings and lost to four of them very badly. Only the 20-15 loss to Michigan State was a close game. Their third offensive play of the season was an interception returned for a touchdown by Iowa’s Riley Moss. They were down 31-3 at halftime in the opener and it has been downhill from there. If Cincinnati misses the playoff they can blame Indiana for completely falling apart and costing them what was supposed to be a huge quality win.
A major reason for this has been an absolutely putrid offense. The Hoosiers scored 113 points in three non-conference games against Cincinnati, Idaho, and western Kentucky (whom they barely beat). They have scored a dismal 87 in eight Big Ten games, by far the worst in the league. They have been held to 7 points or less in five conference games, and it would be six if not for a garbage time TD this past week against Minnesota. 35 of their 87 points in conference play were scored against Maryland.
As a result of the offense being so bad, the defense, expected to be the strength of the team, has crumbled. They have done their best. They held Michigan State’s Kenneth Walker III to 84 yards in that close loss, but this team is -12 in the turnover margin with 21 turnovers to only 9 forced. The offensive line has not protected the quarterback and has struggled to regularly open holes in the running game. That means the defense is getting absolutely no help.
Indiana will be the seventh passing offense that Purdue faces that is rated worse than 100th nationally, joining Northwestern, Iowa, UConn, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois. They are 121st out of 130 teams nationally in scoring offense, rating ahead of Illinois, Northwestern, and UConn as Purdue opponents. Considering Purdue gave up 14, 13, and 0 to those teams, the Purdue defense should be more than fine.
Who to Watch on Offense
A Quarterback – Like Northwestern this past week, they will play one. He won’t necessarily be good. Michael Penix Jr. is trying to come back from injury yet again, but when he was playing he threw for 939 yards and 4 TDs against 7 interceptions. Jack Tuttle threw for 423 yards and 2 scores against 5 picks. True freshman Donaven McCulley has gotten some starts of late due to injuries and has 475 yards and 2 scores against only 2 picks. Grant Gremel has also played in four games. Indiana completes barely 50% of its passes and has only 9 passing TDs and 14 interceptions. McCulley at least brings a running element to the offense, but all four have been various levels of bad. Tuttle and Penix are also questionable with injuries.
A Running Back – If Stephen Carr can play he is pretty good. He had 600 yards and 6 TDs on the year, but had only three carries against Michigan and did not play last week. He had a season high 136 yards and 2 TDs against Maryland, so he would be the best back on the field. If he can’t go, however, there is a huge drop off. Davion Ervin-Poindexter is the next best rusher with only 179 yards and one score on 36 carries. Their second best running back happens to be standing on our sidelines now, as Sampson James ran for 118 yards and a TD two years ago against Purdue, but transferred to Purdue mid-training camp this year.
Ty Fryfogle – WR – Fryfogle was expected to be an all-Big Ten receiver this year, but it turns out when your quarterbacks suck, a great receiver is pretty limited. He has 44 receptions for 493 yards and a single touchdown after having 37 receptions for 721 yards and 7 TDs in just eight games last year. He is a playmaker. He can do something if you get him the ball, but they have been unable to get him the ball consistently. Tight end Peyton Hendershot is also pretty good with 40 receptions for 492 yards and 4 TDs. Overall their passing game is roughly half as productive as Purdue’s, and they couldn’t even throw on Idaho.
Who to Watch on Defense
Micah McFadden – LB – If there is one player that has played up to the preseason hype it is McFadden. He has been one of the best linebackers in the Big Ten and a worthy First Team all-Big Ten selection. He has 70 tackles with an impressive 6.5 sacks on the blitz and can cause problems in the backfield. He is excellent, but can only do so much.
Tiawan Mullen – CB – Mullen has been out since the Maryland game, and that is the only game he has played since late September, but he is attempting to come back. When healthy, he is an excellent corner and would likely draw the David Bell assignment. He had 38 tackles and 3 interceptions in last year’s abbreviated season.
Raheem Layne II – DB – Layne has played well in the secondary with 62 tackles total and 25 in the last three weeks. He also has an interception. This is still a defense that has collapsed and given up 34 points per game. They are 10th against the run at 166 yards per game and 9th against the pass at 223 yards per game. By comparison, Northwestern is better against the pass and scoring, plus Purdue won’t be playing on a terrible baseball field this week.
Who to Watch on Special Teams
Charles Campbell – K – When Indiana gets in field goal range Campbell has been decent, hitting on 13 of 17 attempts. He even has a long of 55.
James Evans – P – Evans has struggled at 42.56 yards per punt, but he has been better than Jack Ansell. He has also had plenty of practice at nearly six punts per game.
DJ Matthews Jr. – PR – Matthews does have a punt return for a score, but that was back against Idaho. IU scored 56 in that game, but got a punt return TD and a blocked punt for a TD.
I am guarded because Indiana still has talent, but they are a banged up team without a functional offense. By some accounts they have quit on the season. They have struggled to move on anyone not named Maryland, who has the worst defense in the conference by a wide margin. Unless they hit on a trick play, get a defensive score, or get a special teams score, I will be disappointed if they get more than 14 points. They started strong last week. They forced a turnover on downs after a 16 play Minnesota drive, then went on a 14 play, 92 yard drive to take a 7-0 lead. They also closed the game with a 7 play, 69 yard drive for a score while trailing 35-7. In between they had 9 possessions that resulted in 6 punts, 2 interceptions, 52 yards, and 3 first downs. It gets even more grim when you remove the 9th possession there, which was 9 plays for 29 yards and two first downs before a turnover on downs while trailing 28-7.
So yes. After taking a 7-0 lead, they got a single first down on 8 drives, gained 23 yards, and threw 2 picks. I mean… yikes. They didn’t even get the pity penalty first down.
This is a broken team. They are very, very bad this year. Last Saturday Purdue played a bad team and struggled for a half, but eventually pulled away for an 18 point win. Indiana is worse. They are the worst team we have played since UConn. Aside from getting blasted by an Ohio State team that is one of the best in the country, Purdue is playing some of its best football in years. As long as it doesn’t beat itself the Bucket should come home.