Scott A. Keisler | November 23, 2018
For the second straight year Indiana (5-6) and Purdue (5-6) both enter the final regular season game playing for the coveted Old Oaken Bucket as well as their sixth win and Bowl eligibility.
In a game like this there is little need for bulletin board material or motivational gimmicks. A player that can’t bring focus and intensity to this scenario may want to find something else to do.
Indiana’s Senior wide receiver Luke Timian may have said it best.
“When you get an opportunity to play in the postseason and it comes down to the last game it’s really like if you’re not doing every single thing that you can to beat this team then you’re not really a real competitor in my opinion.”
Head Coach Tom Allen agrees that there is no need to get too creative in terms of finding ways to inspire his squad.
The players understand what’s at stake. They understand what a huge game this is in and of itself being the Bucket game. But then you add to it the Bowl ramifications for both programs it just intensifies the game, for sure.
In the long history of the Indiana-Purdue rivalry, this is the first time both teams have been playing for Bowl eligibility in back to back years.
Prior to last year, Indiana had won the Bucket four straight times. Indiana secured a spot in a bowl game by beating Purdue in 2015 and 2016 so this is becoming a familiar scenario for the Hoosiers.
Prior to 2015 Indiana had been to only one Bowl game (2007) since 1994 – that’s 21 seasons.
A win on Saturday would send Indiana to a Bowl game for the third time in four years.
On the other hand an Indiana loss would mean failing to play in a Bowl for the second straight season.
This game looms large for an Indiana program looking to build momentum going forward. Consistently playing a postseason game can make a big difference, says Coach Allen.
You get extended practice time with your team. That gives you almost a whole extra spring of technique work and development. And just in recruiting it’s a big deal. As we build this program we want to be in a position where we’re climbing and growing every single year.
The sting of losing the Bucket and failing to play in a Bowl game last year should be a motivating factor for returning players and coaches. Former player, Co-Defensive Coordinator and Defensive Line Coach Mark Hagen describes the emotions vividly.
It burns. It stings. It’s gut-wrenching.
Senior Offensive Lineman Wes Martin agrees that losing the Bucket and having his season end early is not something that he wants to experience again.
There’s no worse feeling than that.
Following last year’s loss, Coach Allen began repeating a question first asked by former Indiana Head Coach Lee Corso - What are we doing to beat Purdue today? Martin explains,
We have signs posted throughout the building so we’re constantly reminded of it.
Senior wideout and dangerous punt returner J-Shun Harris II said of Coach Allen’s question,
That’s been his motto ever since we lost it last year. Now, the opportunity has presented itself to win it back, and we have to take advantage of it.
The Hoosiers control their own destiny. Will they rise to the occasion and meet the challenge? Or will they be sent away in bitter disappointment for the second year in a row? We’ll find out in just over a day!
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