Zach Osterman, Indianapolis Star
Published 4:12 p.m. ET Nov. 30, 2019 | Updated 5:37 p.m. ET Nov. 30, 2019
Indiana coach Tom Allen gets his first Old Oaken Bucket win over arch rival Purdue.
Stefan Krajisnik, Special for IndyStar
IU won a wet, ugly, thrilling Old Oaken Bucket game Saturday, 44-41, in double overtime at Purdue. Here are three reasons why:
Weather played its role
Indiana looked significantly less interested in passing the ball in the cold, wet conditions Saturday in West Lafayette. Purdue missed big shots down the field when they were there to be had early. Both teams — blessed with good kickers — missed makeable field goals in the first half. Logan Justus, IU’s redshirt senior place kicker who hadn’t missed in any of his first 14 attempts this season, missed three attempts Saturday.
It can be cliché to talk about the weather as a factor so often in college football. But it was impossible to escape the way it shaped both teams’ approaches to the Bucket game. It impacted IU and Purdue in different ways, but it weaved its way through the fabric of Saturday’s game, start to finish.
Whop and Sampson
One was back after spending a week and a half sidelined by a concussion. The other was thrust into his first start at running back by Stevie Scott’s absence through an injury lingering from last weekend’s loss to Michigan. Together, they handed Indiana the bulk of its offensive success Saturday.
It was nearly impossible to understate how much IU missed Whop Philyor’s playmaking ability in the second half at Penn State, and all day long last weekend against Michigan. He made up for lost time Saturday, catching a touchdown pass from Peyton Ramsey on Indiana’s first drive of the game, and kept performing all game long. He finished with 135 yards on seven catches, with two total scores.
Sampson James, meanwhile, got to spend a week preparing to make his first-career start, replacing Scott for Indiana’s rivalry game. He responded with 118 yards on 22 carries, pushing piles and looked like the bruising, physical back Tom Allen said Indiana signed when the Hoosiers flipped him from Ohio State.
James ran strong downhill, forcing Purdue to stack the box just to contain what hasn’t often been a dominant IU run game this season. His legs changed the calculus for both sides Saturday, the most Allen could have asked of his young back.
Hoosiers find a way
IU’s second-half performance left much to be desired. James’ injury cost them their ground game. The weather affected Peyton Ramsey’s ability to impact with IU’s passing attack. Indiana committed too many penalties, wasted too many good opportunities and let Purdue linger long enough that it was the Boilermakers, not the Hoosiers, who were within reach of a game-winning field goal try at the end of the game.
But as this team has done on the road before this season, Allen’s team squeezed out a win. It wasn’t always pretty, nor was it Indiana’s most impressive day by any means. It was, however, a win that retook the Old Oaken Bucket for the first time since 2016, kept Indiana in good bowl position and handed the Hoosiers their best record in a quarter century. All of which were worth celebrating Saturday afternoon.
Follow IndyStar reporter Zach Osterman on Twitter: @ZachOsterman.